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“I won’t be able to manage that”, I hear Mayela say. That’s not surprising, because it is a challenge to copy a somewhat complicated picture with one’s non-dominant hand, for a lot of people the left hand. But she switches into gear and rises to the challenge.

Moments later when she’s only finished only half of the drawing, I hear her mumble: ‘Wow, it’s easier than I thought it would be”. Sylvia

When I ask the participants at the end of the exercise what they have learnt from this exercise, the various comments are best summarized as: ‘I thought I could not do this, but when I told myself to be brave it turned out to be easier than I thought’. And when I probe a bit further to get to the heart of the matter, they conclude: If you get stuck in thinking you cannot do something, you won’t manage it; however, if you view a task as a challenge worth trying, you will manage it!’ Of course this is a principle that we ought to apply every day, and definitely when the behaviour of one of our residents challenges us.

This morning we get together for a couple of hours to immerse ourselves in a jointly chosen theme that covers both theoretical and practical aspects of issues we meet in our work. We have been covering topics such as ‘teamwork’ and ‘improving communication’, and today our theme is ‘increasing our creativity’. I usually prepare these sessions. I begin by asking how they would define ‘creativity’. Sylvia comes up with a nice definition: ‘looking out for possible solutions rather than staring at the problems’. Indeed it is important to look at matters with a broad rather than a narrow mind, to be aware of one’s blinkers, and to have alternatives ready. If plan A does not work, maybe plan B does, or else plan Z.

When you work with people, especially with people such as Jonathan, Daniel and Loyda who are not articulate, you can never be sure how they will react in given situations, even more so if they are locked up in their own world, or stressed or blocked emotionally. So we have to be alert to whether our behaviour is effective. If our behaviour does not give the desired result, we need to change it. The more creative we are, the easier and fun it is to find ways of acting effectively.

Lessons learned 
The course session runs late today, but everyone is satisfied. During the exercises they practised applying more body language in interactions such as reacting with more expression, having eye contact from a lower position than the resident, and having alternative ways of acting. It’s a great dress rehearsal, but what really matters of course is that we can apply it in our actual everyday context. Fortunately our residents provide us with plenty training material! Of course I’m around to give feedback when things go well or not so well.
The beauty of these kinds of themes is that they do not only improve the quality of our work, but that they also represent gain in everyone’s personal life. The more creative we are, the easier life becomes. Learn to look at things differently, learn to think differently, and thereby learn how to act more effectively….