We recently read a brief, but powerful piece of writing by Rachel Pisors (pictured right), an attorney at Legal Aid of Arkansas. It’s worth reading, whether you work in legal aid or not.
The Power of ‘Mmm’
Legal Aid of Arkansas Attorney
It doesn’t get you into trouble.
You’re not giving legal advice.
It won’t make the other person stop talking.
But what it will do is tell the person on the other end of the line that you care.
That you’re human—and not a machine.
That someone is listening to them, and that it’s safe for them to keep talking.
But first, let’s just try something.
I’m gonna run through a few basics to get to know where you’re at.
Just shout out the answer; won’t take but a minute.
How much money is in your bank account?
Do you have a car?
Do you go to Commodities to get free peanut butter?
And about that abuse…were you sexually assaulted?
Did this happen to you more than once?
And you said your name is “______,” right?
And you stay at the “________” shelter?
I now know exactly how bad-off you are financially, and I know what happened in your bedroom last night.
Me? Well, you don’t have to know me.
I just ask the questions, and you answer them.
Tough luck; that’s how this system works.
What if we gifted our callers with pauses?
What if we gifted them a brief “Mmm,” after they’ve provided us with an answer that must have been particularly difficult to tell us—a stranger.
What if—just sometimes—we combined the “Mmm” with the pause, and after he says, “Well, I’m on SNAP, and I really don’t have any assets,” we say, “Mmm,” pause a second, and then gently pose our next question.
How about after she says, “Yes…he tore my panties off and held me down; it really hurt,” we say, “Mmm,” pause a second, and then gently pose our next question.
This isn’t an expensive gift.
It doesn’t commit us in any way or require you voice an opinion.
Just empathy—that’s all.
No sympathy—just a brief second of empathy.
Would you consider giving this gift to your HelpLine callers this New Year?
I know if I had been a HelpLine caller when I needed my divorce, I sure would’ve been grateful to you for this.