The Shock Of The New

Here is a second guest blog from my colleague Lyn (lyn@sharedlivesplus.org.uk) who has led the recruitment and training of our new Shared Lives Ambassadors:

My last blog ended with this quote from Clare, one of our Shared Lives Ambassadors. “If you don’t try anything new, you just end up doing the same old boring things over again and you never learn anything”

Well, we like a challenge at Shared Lives Plus, so we took Clare at her word. One of the first new things we asked our Ambassadors to do was to attend a two day training course with an overnight stay. The twist was we were asking them to do it without their Shared Lives carers.

We all knew that this would be quite a big challenge, not least logistically, but I don’t think any of us anticipated just how challenging it would prove to be.

Intellectually, we got it. We understood we were asking people to take a risk. We did all the things professionals are supposed to do when supporting people to take risks and I for one was very pleased with how brave we were being. What I had forgotten was the real bravery comes from the person actually taking that risk.

And our Shared Lives Ambassadors ramped up the risky new experiences pretty quickly.

Travelling on a train. Tick. Travelling on a train without a supporter. Tick. Changing trains to make a connection. Tick. Dealing with missing your connection because your first train was cancelled. Tick.

And then there was:

Staying in a hotel without a supporter. Staying in a hotel room alone. Evacuating the hotel when the fire alarm goes off at the crack of dawn. Having to get up and go to work despite being woken at the crack of dawn by a fire alarm. Going to work at all.

Well, they rose to the challenge. Our seven Shared Lives Ambassadors travelled the length and breadth of the country to spend two days with us, Angela from Inclusion North, and inspiring self-advocates Karen Flood and Bill Heron.

It was amazing to see the team grow in confidence.

Confidence is not simply about how we behave on the outside – it is more about our inner feelings and, especially, our sense of self-belief. One confident person may be very popular, outgoing, willing to speak up. They may even be prepared to give a presentation. Another confident person may sit quietly and be more thoughtful. So, two confident people may appear very different. But they are both willing and able to learn because they are up for new experiences.

As professionals, we – you – have an important role to play in encouraging confidence. Confidence supports bravery, and bravery feeds confidence, in a virtuous circle. But there’s more to it than that.

Confidence is contagious. That’s an acknowledged fact. Research has shown that teachers with high confidence in their teaching ability create confident pupils. Parents who have confidence in their ability as a parent improve their children’s self-beliefs and capabilities. By rising to the challenge, our Shared Lives’ Ambassadors showed confidence in us. Thus our relationship from the beginning is not one of supporter and supported. It is of colleagues learning and developing together.

So Clare was spot on; doing new things does help you learn. We learned we were right to believe in our Shared Lives Ambassadors, to challenge them and to have faith that they would rise to the challenge.

I was asked recently what the limits were to our Ambassadors being involved in Shared Lives’ work. The simple answer is; if we have confidence in them and they have confidence in themselves – there are no limits. Is that the shock of the new?

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