Using Self in Community
When people see that you can get things done, they line up behind you.
D. KESSLER (AS CITED IN L. THOMPSON, 1990, P. 1)
Tiny steps … contribute to the making of the “hardy spirit. ”
S. PHELPS AND N. AUSTIN (1987, P. 227)
This chapter discusses competency and cognition in social work and then focuses on assertiveness as a pivotal skill.
Consider how dancers and social workers are alike. Both respect highly developed use-of-self 1 abilities that contribute to professional accomplishments and benefits for others. Initiative and persistence also are basic to any success. While ballet and modern dance both require the same mastery over the body and an ability to relate to an audience, each requires specialized abilities; similarly, clinical work and community work draw on the same aptitudes while requiring the refinement of specific proficiencies.
The fact that we can draw on the same core skills means that elements of practice learned in one social work job, such as casework, are easily transferred to quite different employment settings, such as community organizations. Interviewing and information gathering, for example, are used in innumerable types of social work. Direct service workers might use these skills to elicit knowledge to improve a client's condition or to run a group more effectively, while community practitioners might synthesize information from interviews to undergird an exposé as part of social justice work. Dealing with an upset patient or community resident by telephone requires corresponding skills.
Social workers develop competence in relating to a variety of people and build on that competence in different aspects of practice. Coordination and advocacy are as basic to community practice as active listening and counseling are to clinical practice; assertiveness is vital to both. All five of those skills—coordination, advocacy, active listening, counseling, and assertiveness— involve communication. Social workers also attempt to heighten their self-awareness, that is, to become aware of skills and limitations in shift-