My Most Powerful Tool

What I bring to the party and how I bring it make a huge difference.


Techniques can be useful in my work, but they are usually limited in their impact. Using my self as an instrument (or implement, or agent) has greater impact than any technique I’ve yet to come across.

What on earth does this mean, to “use my self”? It’s a simple idea, but one that is challenging to explain. The multiple attempts I’ve made to write this post are my evidence of that.

Self as agent, or instrument has three aspects: 

  1. self-awareness and self-knowledge, 
  2. choice, and 
  3. attending (as in “what am I paying attention to?”). 

Using my self with clients is an exercise in working with these three aspects.

At the top of the list, self-awareness requires recognizing what I bring to a situation or interaction. I have preferences, predispositions, knowledge, experiences, characteristics, filters, biases, affiliations, and history, all of which influence what I see, what I say, and what I do at any moment. 

Some of these influences will be apparent to me and the client because they are part of what is occurring between us right now. They are out in the open. 

The greater portion of these influences will not be apparent to the client (and maybe not even to me) because they are internal and hidden.

As we get to know each other, the things that influence me and make me who I am have the opportunity to become more in the open. That’s called building a relationship. 

Still, even as these influences become more apparent, I have to continue to monitor them for appropriateness and effectiveness. Just because something can come out into the open doesn’t mean that it should.

This involves choice. I can choose to make any of these not-yet-apparent influences visible to the client, or not. Similarly, I can choose to make a different use of the already apparent influences, or not. This is when it becomes evident that I am using my self as an agent in the work we are doing together.

If I am not aware these things are happening with me, my effectiveness is going to be diminished or compromised. To avoid that, I’ve got to pay attention to what is going on with me, with you, and between us throughout our interaction.

And, when I’m not sure about any of this, asking a question is a good way to try to get a handle on things. 

None of this is unidirectional. You have your own preferences, predispositions, knowledge, experiences, characteristics, filters, biases, affiliations, and history, and not only do these things in you influence what you might say or do, they affect the impact of anything I say or do.    

There is much more to say on this topic. Later. What do you make of this so far?