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7 Reasons Why Social Workers are Nameless Heroes in Our Society

7 Reasons Why Social Workers are Nameless Heroes in Our Society

Why do you think that social workers are often called the Angels of the Earth? They are also sometimes called the voice for the voiceless. At almost every level of society, social workers are making a difference to people’s lives in often challenging environments. They are beavering away in many areas of public life and helping people who are challenged and neglected. Here are seven glimpses into the joys and sorrows of being a social worker. After you have read this, you will know why they are the unsung heroes in our society.

1. They help the elderly to cope

Did you know that the number of older Americans (65+) has increased by 25% in the last 10 years? A simpler figure to remember is that one in seven Americans is now over 65 because of improved medical care and increased longevity.

Who looks after the elderly with dementia and other diseases when they insist on living on their own? The geriatric social workers of course. They play a key role in helping to improve quality of life and optimal functioning within the familiar domestic environment. They help them with administrative work in deciding which services they can apply for.

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They are also in the front line as they are trained to spot elder abuse and help co-ordinate medical care. If your elderly loved ones need the assistance of a geriatric social worker, you can find one in your area here (USA) or in the UK here. If you live in another country, the official social services will usually have a seniors’ welfare department.

2. They are our guardian angels

“Why am I a Social Worker?The answer is simple: to Be a Helper to the mentally, economically, and educationally impoverished humans on planet earth!” – Darlene Jack, University of South Carolina’s Master of Social Work Program.

It is a sobering fact that, at some point in our lives, we will face a crippling challenge such as financial loss, addiction, unemployment, or illness. This is when social workers will come to our rescue.

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3. They are frustrated by bureaucracy

A social worker quickly learns that they can never act as a “rescuer” on impulse or when faced with an emergency late at night. They have to contact the agencies who are on duty and that makes them frustrated because they are not the ones in the frontline at the right time.

Many social workers are plagued by the fact that they need other experts to help them with their cases. These may be doctors, probation officers, teachers, or youth workers. They find it really difficult to liaise with them because they never return their calls. Another problem is that they have to “hot desk” as there may be shortage of office accommodation due to government cuts.

4. They are trained to deal with alcohol abuse

The consumption of alcohol in our society is so normal that its abuse is often ignored and even tolerated. There are many cases of people drinking themselves to death and yet no one will raise the alarm. In other cases, the intervention of a highly trained social worker and counsellor often saves that person from destroying their lives and those of their loved ones. They know that telling a person to stop drinking suddenly can be fatal. They follow the Stages of Change which helps alcoholics to understand the stages involved in contemplation of the problem and preparing for the changes they need to make.

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5. They have to watch boundaries

The social worker may get very heavily involved in patients’ lives and, at times, may find it difficult to draw a boundary. A typical case was where a social worker was asked to give the eulogy at the funeral of a patient she had been helping. The patient’s parents held her in such esteem and admired her work so much that she seemed to be an obvious choice. But the social worker faced an ethical dilemma in that she did not want to break the privacy rules, while at the same time she did not want to offend the family. Sometimes, social workers find it difficult to draw the boundary lines because they care so much for their charges.

6. They help to mend broken families

The social worker is the go to person when families disintegrate under the weight of domestic violence, conflict and sibling rivalry. It is the social workers who are the heroes, as they are the ones who are prepared to listen with empathy and understanding. Above all, they know how to intervene effectively so that further tragedy can be avoided.

One social worker described how he had to deal with a 16-year-old boy who had attacked his mother with a knife. His family rejected him but the social worker knew that the boy would make contact after he was released from care. His work was to counsel both the boy and the mother for that eventuality. The boy and mother were reconciled after some sessions with the social worker. The boy went back to school and now works in social care himself. This is what makes the job so satisfying and why it is so gratifying.

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7. They can help people get back on track

It is tragic to see society treat mental illness with disdain, intolerance, and indifference. The social worker is the heroine who shows that she cares and she knows the true worth of a person. She is the one who will be their advocate and will help them on the road towards empowerment.

I remember talking to one mental health worker who described how she helped a woman with severe depression. She had no job prospects, no social support network and was on social benefits to survive. The social worker counselled her and she is now confident about her future, has found a job and is pursuing a hobby. Through the hobby, she has made friends and she is back on track. It is cases like these that make the social worker’s life so rewarding.

It is their dedication, caring and love for their fellow human beings which make them the unsung heroes or heroines as we have seen from the examples above.

“If I was to give advice to social work students, I would say it’s really, really hard and it’s a lot of work. But it’s really rewarding too, so I think if you’re going to go into it then you have to do it whole-heartedly.” Gareth Benjamin, social worker student at Plymouth University (UK).

Featured photo credit: Social work/Army Medicine via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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