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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

More by this author

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 February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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