10 ways to empower others

By Mary Bishop, Wood’s Homes Practicum Student

Mary Bishop is an MSW student at the University of Waterloo and is completing her practicum with Wood’s Homes at our Trailcross Treatment Centre in Fort Smith, NWT.

March is National Social Work Month and this year’s theme is The Power to Empower. Empowerment is a term that social workers are all too familiar with, as it means the process of building capacity within others to make their own choices and turn those choices into action. While empowering clients is a common trait among social workers, we all have the ability to empower others whether it be clients, co-workers, friends or groups.

Here are 10 simple ways  you can empower someone:

Listen. Never underestimate the power of taking the time to stop and listen to someone. By doing so, you are sending the message that what they have to say is important and that they are worthy.

Be aware of your body language. So many things are said in the things we don’t say. Your body language sends a strong message when you are interacting with other people. Be aware of what kind of message you are sending.

Be honest in your words and actions. It is important to create an atmosphere of trust. Building a relationship based on honesty will encourage others to do the same.

Use encouragement instead of criticism. As Dale Carnegie said, “Abilities wither under criticism; they blossom under encouragement.” Focusing on encouragement, instead of criticism, helps others realize their potential.

Comment on others’ strengths. Using a strengths-based practice is a good away to empower others. Finding out what others do well, and building on that, helps other to see their full potential.

Let everyone be heard. Sometimes people are afraid to speak up for themselves or feel too intimidated to ask for what they need. Make a point of ensuring everyone has an opportunity to be heard and give feedback to encourage them to continue speaking out.

Be positive. Having a positive attitude can be infectious to those around you. By displaying a positive attitude, others will be naturally encouraged to do the same.

Learn from others. By allowing someone else to teach you something, particularly youth, you are letting them be the expert. As a result, they feel a sense of accomplishment and mastery.

Be genuinely inquisitive. Take the time to find out more about someone. Shown genuine interest in what is important to them, which will allow them to see that their goals, interests and beliefs are valued.

Take time for yourself. Self-care is important in any helping profession and it is impossible to continually give to others without taking time to recharge and take care of yourself.


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Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!

If you are experiencing a crisis and need to speak to someone, please call our counsellors at our 24/7 Crisis Counselling Line: 403-299-9699 or toll-free line: 1-800-563-6106.

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