Being a counselor is much more than helping clients. Being a counselor will change the way you see the world, but also the way you see yourself. I joined my school’s peer counseling program to help others. Little did I know just how much it would help me.
These are the lessons I learned that have changed me forever. I can only hope that they will touch others too:
1. When people ask you to listen to them, it’s not the same as asking for advice
Sometimes, people just need to vent. When you listen to a person speak, listen to truly hear them- not to reply to them. Just hearing someone out, showing them that they’re not alone and that they’re not crazy for feeling or thinking how they do, could change their life. It might also change yours.
2. Don’t relate everything back to you
It takes away from a person’s struggle to connect it back to yourself. When someone shares details of their personal life, you may relate but that doesn’t mean you fully understand what they’re going through. Instead, ask them more about it. The story is theirs to tell, not yours.
3. Body language speaks volumes
You can learn a lot about a person not just by what they say, but by what they don’t. Pay attention to how a person carries him/herself. Notice when someone’s body language doesn’t match their words.
4. Stop asking why
This doesn’t have to be literal. (Although it’s better if it is) Essentially, this means to hold back on judgment. Instead of asking “why,” listen to the details of another point of view. If you don’t understand, try (really try) leaving your own perspective and looking into a new one. You might be amazed at what you find.
5. A support system changes everything
Family, friends, teachers, coworkers, whoever ― these people can make all the difference on someone’s well-being. Without a support system, every problem seems a hundred times worse. If you know someone lacks support in their life, why not reach out yourself?
6. A small act of kindness can save a life
A smile or a genuine listening ear could be the only light a person sees during a dark time. Give whenever you can.
7. You never know what a person is fighting
Often the ones who smile the brightest and laugh the hardest have seen the worst days. Just because someone doesn’t show you their struggle, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Listen for what people don’t say.
Every person has a story. Don’t be afraid to open your arms to it.
Thank you to the Queens College Peer Counseling Program for not only changing my life but for changing lives every single day. It was a true blessing to be a part of something so extraordinary.