Take a few minutes and create scenarios that demonstrate mutuality and empowerment. You might choose to create one negative and one positive scenario. The scenarios can be based on your experiences or fictional.
The negative scenario would demonstrate an approach that is:
• Non-mutual: the exchange is a one way process and both sides don’t gain. There is a lack of equality in the exchange.
• Not empathic: there is a lack of genuine understanding founded on shared
experiences. One person may show pity or sympathy for the other.
• Disempowering: someone feels less powerful as a result of the exchange. They may feel less able to find their own way forward and may feel dependent on the other person.
• Falling into the ‘expert trap’: In other words one peer may be trying to advise and guide the other based on their own experience rather than helping them find their own way forward. While advising people might feel like the easiest and quickest thing to do it has the potential to be disempowering.
The positive scenario should demonstrate an approach that is:
• Mutual: the exchange is two way and it is clear that both parties benefit in the exchange. There is a sense of interdependence.
• Empathic: there is real and genuine understanding of the other person’s situation
based on a shared experience which does not involve pity or sympathy.
• Empowering: there is a greater sense of self direction and control as a result of the exchange.
Write as much detail as you want to for each scenario. Now consider the following questions:
- Consider the role of dependence, independence and interdependence for each scenario
- Look at the behaviours, skills, attitudes and emotions used by the people involved to support or reduce empathy, mutuality and empowerment.
- How did these different scenarios make you feel?
- What emotional reactions did they create?
Some peer skills you might use in these scenarios:
Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s thoughts or behaviours even when you may not agree with them. It is a way of communicating that a relationship matters to you. A validating response might be: “I understand what you are saying… I can see why you might feel like that… It must be very hard to have those kind of feelings.”
Try checking in on your understanding with people. This shows that you value what the other person is saying and want to properly understand them. You might say something like: “What I think I hear you saying is… Have I understood you correctly?…”
Seeking clarification where things are unclear can also show you value what is being said and that you are keen to learn more: “When you said… Can I just check my understanding… Can you tell me more about that…”
You may choose to repeat the scenarios as you seek to build mutuality and empowerment, and you can ask someone you trust to role play them out with you if you wish to demonstrate them in real life.