An essential component of being a helper is having a solid ethical foundation. Here are four life-hacks that I think will give you a jumpstart on building your own ethical theory and perspective.
- “It all depends.” My graduate school professor taught this to us and reinforced it in every week of the class we took on Ethics. His contention was – and I agree – that there are far more grey areas than there are absolutes and so we need to be prepared to make ethical decisions every day, realizing that we need to evaluate each situation in isolation. That doesn’t mean there aren’t black and white rights and wrongs; but there are more shades of grey than the fifty pop-culture has subjected us to.
- Seek consultation. Any time we need to make a tough decision, we should utilize other people and their wisdom and experience. If you have a supervisor, you should rely on them to help guide you through rough ethical waters. And you should have a go-to team of experts that you rely on regularly whenever you need to decide how to respond or react to an issue.
- Don’t operate in a vacuum. I tell friends, especially those younger than me, that if there’s something that they’d be embarrassed for me to find out then they probably shouldn’t be doing it. That is absolutely true of ethical dilemmas. Ask yourself, “Am I comfortable with my course of action being made public?” If so, then you are likely on the right track.
- Document, document, document. Write it all down. Everything. From the nature of the dilemma, who you consulted with, what they said – with quotes if possible – and why you made the choices you made with evidence to support any assertions or decisions that you made. Keep a record of this, just in case.
And there you have it. I believe that if you follow these four guidelines, most of your ethical decision-making becomes a little less stressful. Ultimately, the work of any helper will be chock-full of ethical issues. It’s nice to have four easy to remember life-hacks to help sort through them.