Reading The Secrets of Consutling
is a very special experience. The book appeals to my sense of humor, my awareness
of human foibles, and my knowledge of how human systems work. Most especially,
this book enlarges my view of how change takes place, of how a consultant in any
context can become more effective.
It is profound in its meaning and humorous
and colorful in its presentation. Jerry Weinberg's style is such that he shares
his experiences and knowledge with me; I feel inspired, rather than defensive.
As I read, I can identify with the people and the problems he describes, and I
take pleasure in laughing at myself and in learning from the situations that apply
The Secrets of Consutling is far more than a consultant's
handbook. It is actually a book about how people can take charge of their own
growth. As a family therapist, I've found it helpful to understand people's behavior
and the relationship between consultant and client by relating it to our birth
into this world, an appearance into an unequal triad: father, mother, child. The
father and mother are supposedly grown, and the child is totally dependent on
the adults. What we learn from birth to adulthood is related essentially to this;
although much of what we learn is unconscious, it gives us both our feelings about
ourselves and about our importance to the world. It also gives us skills for coping,
which can be augmented by consultants.
Unconscious or not, our basic childhood
learnings still operate, whether we're in the role of client or consultant. Jerry
Weinberg often gently teases the reader, as well as himself, about some of these
powerful unconscious lessons that get in the way of our hoped-for results. For
example, every one of us needs approval and open recognition of success: "Look,
Ma, no hands," says the proud son while riding his bicycle, hoping Mama will
smile. When Mama doesn't, the child's need is unfulfilled and, as an adult, he
may still look for that smile, but in the wrong context.
Further, many of
us still dance between the wish and need to know and the fear of rejection that
might come from revealing our needs. "After all," we think to ourselves,
"if I am smart, I should know everything already and be able to handle every
situation well. If I don't, it is a sign of my weakness, stupidity, perverseness,
or incompetence. Acknowledging such flaws would be intolerable." When this
interpretation is made, most of us play games, either hiding our true feelings
or projecting them onto someone else: thinking, for example, "I don't need
you. And if it looks as if I do, it is probably because you are at fault."
help, offering new ways to cope, is the consultant's job; but in order for the
consultant to succeed, the job needs to be framed and approached with just that
dance in mind. By asking for the consultant's help, the client is saying, sometimes
nonverbally, "I need you. I can't say so directly, so find a way to help
me without destroying my sense of worth." The wise consultant answers in
a way that recognizes the client's self-worth, but also doesn't compromise his
own. Otherwise, no real or lasting change can take place.
As the wise consultant,
Jerry Weinberg illustrates this key point in many different contexts. He points
to effective and interesting ways to approach the dance, and always praises the
client who knows when and whom to ask for help as a mark of greater intelligence
than as an admission of incompetence. In this context, both client and consultant
grow in learning and strength, and everyone feels good.
After all, aren't
the secrets of consulting basically what growth, competence, and good human relations
are about? Namely, that we feel good about ourselves and about others, and that
we experience our hopes and goals being fulfilled.
Palo Alto, California