I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “why the career change?” when I left social work to work for Building Trust. And some who are probably thinking, “why hire a social worker to run a business”? I can’t speak for Bruce’s decision to choose me over other candidates, but I can easily explain why I wanted to work for Building Trust.
I was invited to be part of Bruce’s Building Trust Experience when my job at the time had me assigned as a Resource Coordinator with his other company, RBB. I remember telling my boss, “Sure, I’ll go.” But what did I need with trust-building? I was a social worker whose training and career depended on earning other people’s trust quickly and professionally. I was proud of how often I was told, “you make me feel so comfortable,” and “I know I can trust you.” In my work with hospice, I had to enter strangers’ homes, make them comfortable enough to share their stories, and encourage them to talk about what they wanted their own deaths to look like. If that doesn’t involve trust-building, then I don’t know what does. Yeah, I’ll go to this workshop; maybe I’ll learn something new.
The first day was pretty much what I expected; most of the material was old hat, stuff from Social Work 101. Communication barriers. Active listening. Maslow’s hierarchy. I had this down. Though I have to say that Bruce’s style was a lot more entertaining than most of my college classes. Still, I remember that something started bothering me – a small, quiet voice told me there was something I needed to pay attention to here.
Then the role-plays hit. Watching these was like watching the practice therapy sessions they use in grad school. While observing and giving feedback to the other participants, I also made mental notes. I watched others appear so comfortable, so self-assured as they went to “icky” places – places that made me anxious just watching them. By the time it was my turn, my emotions were raw and barely under the surface. I got through it, somehow.
As I processed the entire experience, I came to know that my personal “icky” place was that I didn’t feel safe – that I didn’t trust other people even though I excelled at getting others to trust me. And for years, I had been hiding that fear behind the pretense of “professional boundaries” that allowed, even encouraged, me to put up walls. With walls to protect me, I was willing to witness and make room for others’ pain and ignore my own.
With a lot of help – that started long before my BTE and continues to this day – I learned how to start removing my walls. Without them, I don’t have the emotional strength for the day-to-day demands of social work, and I was paying for it with the cost of my own mental health. I knew I had to find a different job. But I still wanted to work where I could forge relationships, build connections, and make a difference – even a small one for someone. When Deb decided to retire, and this job was posted, I couldn’t pass up the chance to give people tools to build better relationships and to build trust – not only with others but, maybe, with themselves. That was – and is – the energy that pulled me forward, to step away from what I had known into my new future. I’m loving it here.