Mistakes I’ve Made #4

26 January 2011 — Leave a comment

Photo: 'EXECUTED BY MISTAKE' by the_moog on Flickr

Everyone makes mistakes, and when it comes to my youth work I’ve made some clangers! Hopefully by reproducing them here, it may give you a bit of a laugh and help you to avoid doing the same thing.

Mistake #4: Not believing what I’m told
This mistake follows on directly from my last mistake where I naively believed everything I was told. Because I’ve been caught out by my gullibility a few times I have sometimes swung too far the other way, becoming very jaded and cynical and choosing not to believe things when presented to me.

In my defence, young people can tend to make up or exaggerate things in an effort to try and outdo each other. I always remember one particular young person telling me ever so sincerely about the horse that lived in their house. It would hang around the kitchen and he would take it in the garden to get a ride. Turns out that wasn’t actually true, so I didn’t feel bad for being sceptical about that one!

A potentially more serious issue occurred on a residential trip where I was assisting as part of the team. A rather difficult and forthright young woman had been a pain to the staff for the entire trip and had tried our patience pretty much to the limit with her stroppy and rude behaviour. We had been called every name under the sun, had to listen as she complained about every activity we did, and got abuse most meal times when she refused to eat anything on the menu!

Right near the end of the trip, this individual came up to me and a colleague and bluntly alleged that some of the girls she was sharing a room with had been bullying her and taken some of her things. I will admit that I instantly did not believe a word of it. To be honest, if anyone was likely to have been doing any bullying it would have been her, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had hidden her own stuff just to cause a scene! I had little sympathy and probably would have done nothing to help her.

Thankfully, my colleague was rather more professional and less judgemental than me. She recognised the genuine distress in the young woman, and responded beautifully by offering to help return her things and work through the issues with the other girls. It turns out this bullying had gone on most of the week and had been the root cause of a lot of her issues. I learned a lot about my attitude from that experience.

So what about you? Have YOU ever dismissed someone’s comment only to later find out it was true? Share with us in the comments!


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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

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