In another lifetime, I used to work with street kids outside of Vancouver, BC. In those days, street WORKERS weren’t as common as street WALKERS, so the profession was new and there weren’t a whole lot of places I could go to find out about best practices. For me, it was pretty much trial and error. And once I got the lay of the land from the local police department, in terms of where kids hung out around the city, the rest was up to me, and that’s when I learned about “the dance!”
Imagine walking into a pinball arcade on a Friday night with your goal being to make contact with street youth and then somehow get them to understand that you’re a youth worker who’s trying to help them, as opposed to a narcotics officer, for example, who’s trying to bust them. I was on THEIR turf, they had absolutely no obligation to even talk to me, never mind make use of any of the resources I had to offer, or get involved in any of the programs I ran. I learned very quickly about how far I could go, when to assert myself, when to back off, when to lay low, when to be in the spotlight, when to offer them something, when to shut up. I learned how to “dance” with these kids.
That lesson has been invaluable to me ever since in both my personal and professional lives. I’m constantly aware of the dance, and when it’s time to lead and when it’s time to follow. I don’t always get the steps right, but at least I’m on the right track. Now I need to take some lessons to improve the “other” kind of dancing!
So what matters to you???