The way that I create and maintain a culture of gentleness surrounding the women I support is through curiosity, warmth, and the building up of others. These three elements feed into one another and are tangibly helpful in sustaining the positive morale and affectionate atmosphere that are vital to a culture of gentleness.
Curiosity implies interest, attention, respect, and good-naturedness, all of which are essential to building and maintaining a culture of gentleness. In the time I have been supporting at COR, I have consistently made a point of asking questions and approaching those I serve and my team with openness and attentiveness. I have found that it is much easier to build pleasant, amicable, and trusting relationships when the other senses your interest in them. Approaching the individuals I serve with curiosity means that I do not assume I know what they want, nor do I cut them off mid-sentence because I think I know what they will say. Instead, I try to listen with fresh ears every day in hopes that I might see and hear things that might otherwise get missed for that individual. Approaching my fellow team members with curiosity means asking how their day went and actually listening to the response. It means refraining from gossip or judgement when someone has made a mistake, and giving that person the benefit of the doubt. I truly believe that this is an essential piece to maintaining good team morale, and by extension, a happy and healthy emotional climate surrounding the individuals we serve.
Hence, I take that curiosity one step further by projecting genuine warmth and care to everyone in our circle. The most important aspect of the culture of gentleness for me is the sense of ease and comfort I feel when approaching others within our community. It is an amazing thing to be surrounded by so many kind, genuine, and warm individuals and to feel safe from judgement, ridicule, or rejection when moving through said group. It is important to me that others feel that same security in me, and so I strive to project amiability, not only to those I support and my teammates, but to everyone else within our immediate community.
That warmth and openness can be taken even further in the form of building up others around me. Greeting an acquaintance by name, remembering what they like, or asking a thoughtful question can make them feel seen and important. Encouraging and complimenting can likewise give someone a well-needed boost to keep doing their best. If I can build up the individuals I support, other supports or even COR friends and family members by doing any of these things, then that person I uplift is more likely to turn around and pay the same kindness forward to someone else. That, to me, is life force behind a culture of gentleness.
Ashley, COR Support
Health and Fitness has always been a passion of mine and I have been trying very hard to promote that within our team. I have taken the lead with healthy grocery shopping and meal planning with the individuals we serve, but I have also been promoting our supports to do the same. When speaking to the team about proper nutrition, I open-the-floor for supports to share their ideas on how to promote a healthy lifestyle as well. All ideas have been valued and appreciated.
The team has come together in encouraging the guys to eat more food in a day and at proper times. I have also made it a priority to have the guys eat as many meals together at the table with their support. It promotes a sense of family and togetherness. I stress the importance of proper nutrition and reduced sugar in our diet. The team has been making better choices with what they buy for foods too.
One of the guys is also taking an interest in his health and he is becoming more internally motivated to keep his body healthy. I cook meals with him every few weeks and then freeze them so he has easy access to healthy and tasty meals that he can warm-up on his own. The rest of our supports have also been taking an initiative in getting him more physically active and eating healthy. I take him to the gym every week and he now looks forward to going and works very hard. My culture of gentleness definitely is reflected in my passion for keeping the individuals we serve physically healthy and happy. I am proud of them for telling me the things they like and don’t like when it comes to healthy meals and being physically active. I am also proud of our supports for being consistent in making health a priority. I hope to continue to promote health and fitness within our team, as it has benefited the overall quality of life with the individuals we serve.
Kyla, COR Support
Describe a place or time where Gentle Teaching has helped you in your personal life.
This hits home to me! I am so blessed to be a part of COR; I have grown so much both within this organization and outside it. I truly saw myself becoming a better person and becoming a role model at home, at school, and at work every day. Gentle Teaching has definitely allowed me to learn more about myself!
Tell us about a bond that you or someone close to you shares with someone you support.
I have bonded well with all the individuals I support. When I come to their home for a support time, I feel as though I am invited to be there. Every time I walk into their house, I feel that I am coming home to my family or that I am coming into a house of close friends. I am grateful for the opportunity that COR has provided me to develop the relationships that I currently hold with every individual that I support.
Discuss a scenario where someone you support taught you something.
Recently, one of the individuals I support decided to manage his paycheck and put the money toward future plans and paying his bills. This was a rare occasion because in the past, his paycheck would be gone within a day or two from social outings alone. It was the first time that I had witnessed him making a plan with his paycheck and his willingness to learn to budget his money was amazing. From that moment, he unknowingly taught me that you can always grow and become a better person! It was a humbling experience to be able to see a 31-year-old man literally grow in front of your eyes. He has grown so much since I met him and I can truly say that I’ve watched him grow each day. It’s unbelievable!
How has Gentle Teaching transformed the person you are or aspire to be?
Like I mentioned earlier, using the Gentle Teaching approach to supporting individuals has allowed me to become a better person than I had ever imagined. My Mom has mentioned to me a couple times where she sees the growth in me and she was proud of how far I have come. My parents were worried about me when I was in grade 9 and 10 because I had the attitude and the personality of someone who was not capable of success. So for them to be able to witness my character grow so much, it’s a sigh of relief for them for sure.
Describe how you have been able to share one (or some) of your passions with the individuals we serve.
First off, it’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things. Being able to share my passions with the individuals have definitely helped with the friendship that has developed. For example, one of the men and I share a passion for hockey. I know that whenever he is having a rough day, I can always bring up hockey topics and news and we can have a long-lasting conversation about it. There was a moment where he and I were at a Pats game and I remember thinking that our relationship had come a long way since we met. The Pats scored a goal, I looked over and he had a huge smile on his face and he ‘fist pumped’ full of excitement. He never does this! This truly was a special moment. It touched my heart to see how joyful he was to be experiencing the Pats playoff run with me.
Jason, COR Support
“Regardless of the type of aggression, self-injury or withdrawal, we assume that a hunger for being-with-others rests in the human spirit, longs to be fulfilled, and , in many instances, needs to be uncovered. We struggle to uncover and fulfill this need in ourselves and others. We are often pushed by the fear of giving ourselves to others and pulled by the hope that such feeling give rise to. Our fear can lead us to lord over others in order to gain a false sense of power. But, the more we question our values, our hope can lead us to feelings of companionship. This pushing and pulling leaves us in a quandary–to reach out toward others or to preside over them. The desire to affirm the other is often buried in us by years of training that have taught us that independence is the central goal of life, and, for those who are on the fringes of community, compliance is the pathway to success.
Yet, self-reliance and blind obedience are lonely conditions that lock us and others out of the embrace of human warmth and affection. Those who are committed to care giving often do not recognize this struggle within themselves, let alone in the marginalized people whom they serve, So the first place to start in the psychology of interdependence is with ourselves, our values, and how we translate these into reality.”
A Spirit of Gentleness is About…
• Our nonviolence
• Our sense of social justice
• Our expression of unconditional love
• Our warmth toward those who are cold
• Our teaching others to feel safe, loved, loving, and engaged
• Our teaching a feeling of companionship with the most marginalized
• Our forming community
• Our sense of human interdependence and solidarity
• Our option to be side by side with the most devalued
A spirit of gentleness might seem easy; but, always remember, we do things that many can interpret as cold and controlling, often without even realizing it. The cold space that exists between us and the vulnerable person deepens and broadens without us even realizing it when we focus on control with a “Do this or else!” mentality or when we wallow in hopelessness with an attitude of “Well, that is just the way she is.”
Without even realizing it, our tone of voice, our posture, the way we look at someone, and the way we talk can tell the vulnerable person strong messages that say, “You are no good! Do what I tell you to do or else!” We do not do this intentionally. Yet, if we do not understand human vulnerability and fragility, our simplest actions can take on a horrendous meaning. Our priorities are often messed up if we focus on behaviors instead of feelings or independence instead of interdependence. We need to worry about helping each person begin to feel more safe and loved instead of getting rid of behaviors.
“Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Companionship”
The relationships and communication I maintain with the individuals I support have helped me establish a gentle, secure and caring presence within the homes of these individuals. By taking the time to get to know these people, I have learned how some of life’s little problems can build into a bad day. By being consistent, enthusiastic and a positive support, I have been able to help small problems stay small!
Sometimes, a little space and time to think is all that is needed to bring someone back to their personal best. It could be a trigger that can be removed from the environment, or even small talk about the Roughriders or Regina Pats. Knowing each of the people I support has taught me to truly consider how the world is uniquely different from everyone’s perspective and just because a problem may not seem like a big deal from my view point, it may be a crucial crutch in these people’s world view.
When I enter the homes of the individuals I support, I bring a friendly and supportive person into their lives. I have a lot in common with each person I support; these connections have helped build our relationship. It has been a wonderful experience to learn from these people and it continues to provide me with the opportunity to help someone see that there are a lot of great things in life and hopefully I can help make it a good day!
Mickey, COR Support
In Gentle Teaching caregivers become aware of how their interactions decrease the probability of violence by focusing on:
• The need to teach a culture of trust, companionship, and community through the creation of new memories based on feelings of being safe and loved.
• Initially lowering expectations and increasing hope. Although caregivers often have seemingly reasonable expectations, the brokenhearted are not ready to do what is expected because they do not feel safe and loved within the caring community. There is little reason to trust a caregiver without these new feelings. Without a strong foundation based on trust, high expectations shatter. The first dimension of caregiving is to establish trust and this arises out of feelings of being safe and loved. If caregivers are too pushy, this could easily spark violence.
• Within this construct, the caring community has to slow down and understand that “The slower we go, the faster we will get there.”
• The avoidance of any compliance attitudes that push brokenhearted individuals into a corner and provoke violence.
• The use of our very presence, words, gazes, and touch in a manner that uplifts each person along with a tender and genuine tone turning each syllable, touch, or gaze into the moral equivalent of an embrace.
• The avoidance of attitudes such as so-and-so knows better, just wants attention, or is manipulative. These can be true but are irrelevant in Gentle Teaching; the focus has to be on feelings and teaching each person to acquire a sense of feeling safe and loved. The healing must be found in the heart, not the head.
• The avoidance or prevention of caregiver violence in common practices such as the use of isolation, time out, token economies, verbal reprimands, grabbing and shoving, physical management, mechanical restraint, cattle prods, chemical restraint, the ease of psychiatric hospitalization as a holding tank, and even phone calls to the police to “manage” someone through the use of stun guns and other methods of control.
• Practice, practice, practice. The best way to prevent harm is through a sharp focus on the tools that have been bestowed upon us. First, our intention has to be to bring and share the gifts of creating a sense of security and a feeling of being loved. Then, within these parameters, caregivers have to become intuitively practiced and skilled at teaching these good memories. This approach is in and of itself the most encompassing way to prevent violence.
John J. McGee, 2012