I have learned quite a bit about myself over the years and I feel compelled to share my experiences in an effort to spare other young SLPs the grief I have known. I imagine it is safe to say that many professionals can relate to the experience I am about to describe.
Throughout my years of employment I have encountered situations where I have not agreed with others on a diagnosis or a prescribed course of action concerning a student. It goes without saying that I believed my thinking to be "right." In those moments of heated dialogue I felt my contributions to be relegated to the bottom rung of the professional expertise ladder. I walked away feeling battered, disrespected, frustrated, and professionally disregarded. Whether I was right or not, truly wasn't the issue. The issue was that I NEEDED to be right. The issue was that the others also NEEDED to be right and that was where the impasse occurred.
|Photo credit: Martin on Flickr|
I spent several days before the meeting with a pit in my gut. I called my SLP and special education friends bemoaning my professional conundrum and seeking advice. I also sought confirmation that I was right. I considered how to get my way with the least amount of collateral damage (my professional integrity, my working relationship with my colleagues, my emotional well being, my student's best interests). And this, young Padawan learner, is the take away; let it go! I divorced myself of the need to be right. I decided that my need to be right was impacting not just myself, but the others on the team, and had the potential to impact my student as well. I was able to temper my summary by writing the following: "What is of paramount concern is the disparity between X’s standardized test performance and his reported ability to successfully navigate the social world. While the root cause of his difficulty is not completely understood, it is very clear that effectively using social communication is extremely difficult for X. This weakness in using language functionally will result in difficulties establishing and maintaining peer relationships as well as impacting his availability for learning in the context of the classroom." My need to be right was deafening! In letting go I was able to hear what my colleagues were saying.
I know that the need to be right is not exclusive to me. I know that most everyone is married to being right. I also understand that that need is the basis for most, if not all conflicts. It is what causes me to jump into defensiveness, however with this one little exercise of release I was able to free myself from continued contention and work collaboratively in the best interest of my student. I was empowered, not by forcing my point, but by releasing! It is counter intuitive and yet it it is empowering. I have been practicing simply saying, "You may be right," and it halts the conversation. Uncanny! There is power and strength in recognizing that my expertise is more apparent when I yield. In yielding, I found my voice and it is heard more clearly and more professionally than I would have imagined! Try it and be sure to let me know how it works!