A Reflective Approach to Uncomfortable Conversations

We all have Uncomfortable Conversations sometimes… join host Cassie Gillespie as she talks with Jan Fook, PhD about her work on using a Reflective Approach, and how this approach can transform tough conversations.

Guest Info:

Jan Fook PhD, FAcSS, University Scholar 2022, was originally an Australian social worker and academic but she has also lived and worked in the UK, Norway, Canada and now the USA (Chair of the SW Dept at UVM since 2019). She is passionately interested in professional practice and the experiences we all have in making a worthwhile difference with the people we are trying to help. She is known internationally for her work on critical social work, but has also championed an approach to research which is relevant for understanding the complexities and nuances of daily practice. Over the last 25 years she has also developed a way of practicing critical reflection which can be incorporated easily into everyday work. It is now used and taught in different countries, and in fact Jan has published extensively about this and travelled widely teaching the model.

Host Info:

Cassie Gillespie, LICSW is the host of Welcome to the Field. Cassie is the Workforce Training Team Lead at VT- CWTP and a former Vermont Family Services Divison worker. Cassie is also a part-time faculty member in the Social Work Department at the University of Vermont


Cassie Gillespie (00:02):

Hello, I’m Cassie Gillespie, and you’re listening to Welcome to The Field, a podcast produced by the University of Vermont’s Child Welfare Training Partnership and the State of Vermont. Welcome to the Field is designed for child welfare workers, caregivers, and community partners. However, this season we will be talking all about uncomfortable conversations, and each episode will touch on a different type of uncomfortable conversation. So even if you’re not working or caregiving in the child welfare field, this season might be for you. Today we’ll be speaking with Jan Fook about a reflective approach to uncomfortable conversations. Jan is originally an Australian social worker and academic, but she’s also lived and worked in the UK, Norway, Canada, and has been here with us in the US as the Chair of the Social Work Department at UVM since 2019. She’s passionately interested in professional practice and the experiences we all have making a worthwhile difference with people we’re trying to help. She’s known internationally for her work on critical social work and over the last 25 years, she has developed a way of practicing critical reflection, which is incorporated easily into everyday work. Jan’s approach is now used and taught in several different countries, and in fact, Jan has published extensively about this and traveled widely teaching this model. In short, we are super excited and incredibly grateful that Jan’s agreed to come spend some time with us here today. Here we go. Welcome Jan.

Jan Fook (01:32):

Thank you for having me.

Cassie Gillespie (01:33):

Ah, we’re excited you came.

Jan Fook (01:35):

Yes, I’m excited to be here so thank you.

Cassie Gillespie (01:37):

. All right, so let’s jump right in. I gave a little bit of an intro in the beginning, but where I’m thinking it makes sense to start is can you tell our listeners, you know, what is a reflective approach?

Jan Fook (01:48):

Okay. And I made some notes for myself and tried to answer this, and it made me reflect more. You’ll be happy to know.

Cassie Gillespie (01:56):

Oh that’s pefect.

Jan Fook (01:56):

And I think what I need to do is talk about what reflection is and then talk about a reflective approach that comes from that, if that makes sense.

Cassie Gillespie (02:07):


Jan Fook (02:08):

So when I talk about reflection, I’m, I’m really talking about, well, the basic definition is learning from experience. Now, that sounds easy, but actually it’s quite hard to do, cuz what most of us tend to do is learn from a bad experience and we just decide we won’t do that again.

Cassie Gillespie (02:28):

That’s true. Yeah.

Jan Fook (02:29):

So learning from experience is really being able to develop really good principles and guidelines for living from any kind of experience, whether it be good or bad. We tend to remember the bad ones.

Cassie Gillespie (02:43):

Yeah, absolutely.

Jan Fook (02:43):

So they’re the ones we, we learn from. Now how we do that is much harder. So the reflection that I teach is actually really involves people trying to think deeply about what is underneath their experience. So what are, are they assuming about their experience and what are they taking for granted about it that leads them to make that kind of meaning. Now, the beauty of that is, you would not credit this, but the beauty of it is it leads to a reflective approach in that it makes you think in different ways about yourself and how you approach other people. So a reflective approach tends to be one that is quite self-aware, for instance.

Cassie Gillespie (03:25):


Jan Fook (03:27):

And when you’re more aware of yourself, you’re much more than aware of how you’re relating to other people and what you’re assuming about them. So basically it should make you easier to get on with . I know that sounds funny, easier to get on with, but more attuned to other people because you’re more attuned to yourself and you’ll be able to see where that will lead in terms of having difficult conversations.

Cassie Gillespie (03:52):

Ah, perfect. That’s perfect. So help me, help me visualize it or help our listeners visualize it. So we often have listeners, you know, the majority of our listeners are involved in the child welfare system some way or another. So they’re workers or they’re caregivers or they’re youth or they’re community partners, but we also have all kinds of folks who just listen who may or may not have ever sat in sort of a, a seminar discussion in a social work classroom. So help me understand what it might like, what does a reflective approach look like? What would you see when it’s happening?

Jan Fook (04:24):

Okay, so I think I’m, I’m just gonna talk in practical terms cause.

Cassie Gillespie (04:29):

Yeah, yeah.

Jan Fook (04:29):

That might be really helpful. You tend to see people who have a reflective mindset, that’s what I tend to call it now rather than approach. Okay. A reflective mindset tends to be one that you are good at listening to other people. Two, you’re not necessarily assuming what they mean, but you are constantly checking out what they’re meaning is. Three, you’re actually able to hear perspectives that are very different from your own, or interpretations that are very different from your own. Reflective approach means you tend to ask questions rather than just talk and impose your own viewpoint on other people.

Cassie Gillespie (05:11):

Mm-Hmm. ,

Jan Fook (05:11):

, That’s a hard one.

Cassie Gillespie (05:12):

And I can see how this is connecting to the difficult conversations. .

Jan Fook (05:16):

Yeah. And, and I think, again, being ready to understand and be aware of your own judgments that you might be imposing on a situation and being prepared to step back from those. But you can’t really do that unless you’re very good at listening. Yeah. As well. So yeah, that’s sort of a few practical pointers anyway.

Cassie Gillespie (05:36):

That’s helpful. I imagine, and I’ll confess, I’m gonna go right off the question list here. So don’t even look at it cuz it’s not on there. ,

Jan Fook (05:45):


Cassie Gillespie (05:45):

What what are your recommendations for how to get underneath your own assumptions? Because these are in my work in a variety of different ways. We ask people all the time to kind of examine their own biases, but having your own biases become visible to yourself. That is such hard work. How do you support people or how does your approach support people to get in there?

Jan Fook (06:09):

Yeah, that is a fantastic question because I love it when the literature just says examine your assumptions. Well, unless you’ve tried to do that , you’ve, it’s very, very, very hard. And I have found people need to practice that.

Cassie Gillespie (06:24):


Jan Fook (06:25):

So it may involve just asking a few really choice questions of yourself. Like, I wonder why I thought that.

Cassie Gillespie (06:31):


Jan Fook (06:32):


Cassie Gillespie (06:33):

That’s so simple.

Jan Fook (06:34):

Yeah. Where did that come from? What did that mean to me when I had that kind of reaction? Why did I feel so angry about that and what was that about? And then once you start asking those questions, it sort of makes it more obvious to you. What you might be assuming about yourself or other people or the situation. But it can start with very, very, very simple questions and simply being prepared to ask them I find is the starting point.

Cassie Gillespie (07:04):

Wonderful. So when we talk about this idea of a reflective mindset, who should be using it?

Jan Fook (07:10):

Well, I would’ve said all the past presidents of the United States, start, sorry, I had to get that joke in . I, I think that one of the things about reflection is we all say in, in social work now we all say that we are reflective.

Cassie Gillespie (07:28):


Jan Fook (07:28):

But, and everyone we don’t like is not reflective

Cassie Gillespie (07:31):

. It’s true. We do. Yeah.

Jan Fook (07:34):

Yeah. So it can be used as a derogatory kind of a category if you like. So I think the issue about reflection is that we all need to do it in different ways at different times. I actually think it is one of the essential components of living and just living a good life and being good to each other. Now, people don’t like it when I say that. So I normally don’t say that because it’s, we meant to apply it to professional practice.

Cassie Gillespie (08:05):

Mm-hmm. .

Jan Fook (08:05):

But frankly I think that if we all learn to reflect in different ways, we will understand each other better. We will understand ourselves better, and we will be able to relate in ways that can communicate better with each other. So in a sense, everyone should do it. It’s not confined to a role, but what we do need to be able to do is work out best in what situations.

Cassie Gillespie (08:29):


Jan Fook (08:30):

We need to be reflective and where it’s gonna be most helpful. And I always say that it’s not the answer to everything. But it is a good mindset to cultivate.

Cassie Gillespie (08:39):

In general. Yeah. What are some of the situations where you would argue it’s essential?

Jan Fook (08:44):

I’m going to speak as a manager now.

Cassie Gillespie (08:46):


Jan Fook (08:47):

In management.

Cassie Gillespie (08:47):

Okay say more.

Jan Fook (08:48):

Yeah. Well when it is your role to monitor people’s behavior or to get them to behave to a certain standard, these are not happy situations for most people.

Cassie Gillespie (09:00):


Jan Fook (09:01):

Okay. So that, those can be very difficult conversations since that’s what we’re talking about. Really you need to cultivate different approaches to raising difficult topics with people. So reflection is really helpful if it puts yourself in the mindset and experience of the other person. Because then you can think about how to phrase an issue or a question in a way that the person is most likely to respond to or engage with. Okay, now you can transfer that to many different situations.

Cassie Gillespie (09:38):

Right, right.

Jan Fook (09:38):

Of course. But when there’s a situation of a power imbalance or authority, I find that most useful.

Cassie Gillespie (09:44):


Jan Fook (09:44):

To take a reflective approach.

Cassie Gillespie (09:45):

That makes sense. And if I put myself in the shoes of a caregiver or a child welfare worker, perhaps a reflective approach would also be useful when you’re interacting with people who have significantly less power than you. So maybe that’s the children, maybe that’s families. Right? Especially at maybe critical decision points in cases. You can’t see, but she’s nodding .

Jan Fook (10:08):

No, absolutely. I think where there are power imbalances it’s most effective. Okay. Because most of us have assumptions about what a power imbalance is and most of us are uncomfortable.

Cassie Gillespie (10:20):


Jan Fook (10:21):

In those situations as well. So really thinking about putting yourself in the other person’s position is a reflective position because you have to think about, well, how might they see me for instance, and how might they interpret what I’m gonna say? So what you try to do is divest yourself. If you’re the person in power, you try to divest yourself of communicating in a way that just communicates power, for instance. And I usually find that the best way to do that is just to be open to listening to the other person and trying to understand their perspective and what they’re on about. It actually does work wonders, I have to say. It sounds so simple, but it’s hard for us to do that when we’re in a position of authority.

Cassie Gillespie (11:08):

Right, right.

Jan Fook (11:08):

And that is a caregiver, a parent.

Cassie Gillespie (11:11):

A social worker.

Jan Fook (11:11):

A social worker, a childcare worker. They’re all positions of authority.

Cassie Gillespie (11:15):

A supervisor. Yep. So I think you’ve sort of backed us into our next question, which is asking about principles. Right? Which principles are really helpful if we’re trying to cultivate the skill set. I know you shared some at the beginning, but are there any others you wanna highlight?

Jan Fook (11:30):

Yes. I love this question, . In fact, I just taught critical reflection this morning at UVM and we talked about some of this.

Cassie Gillespie (11:38):

Oh, marvelous.

Jan Fook (11:39):

Yeah. So I always say critical reflection is a set of techniques and yes, the set of techniques gets you to a reflective approach, but it’s also the climate and the culture that you create around that.

Cassie Gillespie (11:55):


Jan Fook (11:56):

Okay? So you can’t really be open to someone else unless you’re non-judgmental.

Cassie Gillespie (12:01):


Jan Fook (12:02):

You start, so that’s a first really important principle. You can’t really listen properly to different perspectives unless you accept the idea that there will be different perspectives.

Cassie Gillespie (12:13):

and that yours may be wrong.

Jan Fook (12:15):

Well, or that two opposite perspectives can still sit together. And that’s quite hard for people to do cuz we’re used to trying to divide right and wrong.

Cassie Gillespie (12:25):

Right and wrong. Yeah. Yeah. I just did it. Yeah.

Jan Fook (12:27):

. Well also, and then you notice there’s only two categories.

Cassie Gillespie (12:30):


Jan Fook (12:30):

Right and wrong. So if you need a mindset of saying, well actually there might be 50 different perspectives, they might all look really different from each other, but they could all be right.

Cassie Gillespie (12:41):

Right, right.

Jan Fook (12:43):

That’s a hard one to cultivate. I think the idea of just being open to hearing about perspectives that are really difficult for you to hear, but actually saying that’s okay, that’s a hard one as well. But there’s some of the principles that go into creating a climate where you can listen more effectively and understand more effectively.

Cassie Gillespie (13:07):

What would you say to folks who are invested and not opening themselves up to other perspectives? Right? Because sometimes I think in any professional workspace, personal lives do you see people who are a little bit guarded about not having to listen to perspectives that they find challenging or different? And what, what would you say to someone, I don’t know that many people would raise their hand and say, you know, I actively refuse to listen to other people. But what would you say to someone who is a little more guarded about bringing in other perspectives?

Jan Fook (13:37):

This is a lovely question, Cassie. And it’s a hard one. And, and I think I’m, I’m talking this is dreadful. I’m talking like a manager now, but I can’t help it sometimes because I think it’s managers who, who have the most difficulty.

Cassie Gillespie (13:50):


Jan Fook (13:51):

With, with this issue. I often start by asking a reflective question. I wonder what you thought the other person was thinking.

Cassie Gillespie (14:00):

Mm-Hmm. .

Jan Fook (14:00):

I wonder why you thought they did that? What do you imagine about their experience that made them do that? So, and it again, you’ll see my class always laughs at me cuz I always saying I wonder.

Cassie Gillespie (14:13):


Jan Fook (14:14):

But that does capture the spirit of it in some ways. I’m not imposing a viewpoint, but I’m inviting a person to consider. And even that phrase is an important phrase to use.

Cassie Gillespie (14:26):

Inviting someone to consider.

Jan Fook (14:28):

Yeah, yeah. Not saying you are wrong or why maybe this other person thought something different. It’s just inviting it to come from them to think about a different viewpoint.

Cassie Gillespie (14:39):


Jan Fook (14:39):

And some in some ways put themselves in that person’s shoes, which is not saying that that person is right, but it’s pointing out that there might be a very different set of experiences that I couldn’t even imagine.

Cassie Gillespie (14:52):


Jan Fook (14:53):

That could be behind it. So I mean, being invited to use my imagination as well.

Cassie Gillespie (14:58):

That’s marvelous. So are there particular ways, I think you’re sort of leading right into it here with this be invited to use your imagination and to consider alternative perspectives. Are there other ways that you would suggest people can practice or try on communicating reflectively?

Jan Fook (15:15):

The very easiest way is always ask a question as opposed to a statement or impose something. Now you can make a statement in a questioning way. Like, I’m thinking that you meant this when you said that. Is, is that the case? Okay? So always again, softening the statement so that you’re opening it up for the other person’s point of view and to hear them.

Cassie Gillespie (15:39):

Mm-Hmm. .

Jan Fook (15:40):

Okay. That’s a really, really easy starting point. I think the other thing is being curious. My class always laughs at me also cuz I say I’m curious about. But,

Cassie Gillespie (15:52):

It’s all wonder and curiosity from you.

Jan Fook (15:54):

Yeah. But I mean, I I think I’ve heard you talk like that too. Cause

Cassie Gillespie (15:58):

, oh she got me.

Jan Fook (15:58):

I had to say that . But it’s, those are very helpful phrases I think for indicating that you’re open to hearing.

Cassie Gillespie (16:06):


Jan Fook (16:07):

And understanding and listening. And it’s very simple. I will say just from reading a lot about communication, this is the kind of thing that women tend to do more easily because they’re used to sort of softening their opinions and viewpoints in order to be more relational. So relational is another word that we could use here.

Cassie Gillespie (16:27):


Jan Fook (16:28):

It isn’t about imposing who we are, it is about trying to understand. Make a bridge between us and the other person.

Cassie Gillespie (16:36):

Yeah. Okay, so I know you’ve done, or let me phrase this differently. Tell me a little bit about some of the workshops you’ve done and maybe some of the examples that have come out of them. Because I think even though we’re talking about all these different communication skills, it can be really nice to help the listeners kind of visualize what happens here.

Jan Fook (16:55):

Yeah. Okay. Nice question. I have mostly done workshops for social work practitioners. In fact, this time at UVM is one of the first times I’ve actually taught critical reflection in a social work program would you believe?

Cassie Gillespie (17:11):

Mm-Hmm. .

Jan Fook (17:11):

I’m normally teaching practitioners, often managers in London where I, I used to live in the UK I think we said. In London, I did a whole series of workshops for the, I forget what it was called in London. . I was gonna say dcf, it’s not called that there.

Cassie Gillespie (17:32):

Oh yeah. The Children’s Bureau or something.

Jan Fook (17:34):

Yeah. So child welfare. Anyway.

Cassie Gillespie (17:36):


Jan Fook (17:37):

And I would do workshops for on the ground practitioners, for team leaders and also for more senior managers. And of course modified it for each of those. For the managers, it was more thinking about how they could incorporate a critically reflective approach into their whole team or section or area. Now, one of the standout examples for me from, from doing a workshop with managers, this is just so simple but fascinating, was that a lot of the managers said one of their issues was how to get people to go to meetings.

Cassie Gillespie (18:12):

Mm-hmm. .

Jan Fook (18:13):

Because they were very unhappy that they had very low attendance. So, and, and I said, well, what do you do about that? Oh, well we try to introduce a system of rewards for people who go to meetings. I mean, I have to confess, I laughed. I said, have you thought about asking them why they’re not coming to meetings?

Cassie Gillespie (18:33):


Jan Fook (18:33):

Oh no. Such a simple,

Cassie Gillespie (18:36):


Jan Fook (18:37):

I mean it’s not even reflection, critical reflection is it? It’s just a simple way of being relational.

Cassie Gillespie (18:43):

It’s just an opening. Yeah.

Jan Fook (18:44):

Yeah. But again, it’s about showing that you’re interested in what the other person’s experience is and then you build a bridge to talk about whatever the issue is. I mean, giving people a system of rewards is treating them like what? Performing animals.

Cassie Gillespie (19:00):

Or yeah. Very small children.

Jan Fook (19:01):

. Yeah. Yeah. And I found that just, that was such a fascinating example, but also the group found that really interesting cause they hadn’t thought about it, these sorts of things in an alternative way.

Cassie Gillespie (19:14):

Oh, how interesting. Are there any other examples from your workshops that you wanna share with us?

Jan Fook (19:18):

Yeah, I will. I will tell you some of the insights I think that practitioners have come to now I hope none of my students are listening because I always talk about this experience, but it sticks with me, . There was a man who was a very experienced social worker. In fact, he was so experienced, he had been nominated as an expert social worker to be part of a study that I was doing. He engaged in critical reflection and in doing that, he brought a story from his experience that he wanted to learn from.

Cassie Gillespie (19:54):

Mm-Hmm. .

Jan Fook (19:55):

The story was the first time he’d had to remove a child from his family. And that had occurred 20 years earlier. He was in such grief over it that he actually cried when he presented the story.

Cassie Gillespie (20:09):

20 years later.

Jan Fook (20:10):

Yep. Now, what we were able to do is help him reflect what was his thinking underneath that? Why did he think it was so bad to be grieved about that situation? Turned out he assumed that because he was professional, he’s not, wasn’t supposed to have any negative feelings.

Cassie Gillespie (20:28):

Mm. The old professionalism thing.

Jan Fook (20:30):

Yeah. He should have dealt with some. So we examined what his assumptions about being a good professional were. And he ended up changing his thinking to think about, well, maybe I was a good professional because I felt so deeply about that and I cared so deeply. And so he ended up thinking of himself as being a good social worker after that. So what the process tends to do is help people revise their thinking in a way that seems to work for them in the present day. Yeah. So you can understand why he was grieving.

Cassie Gillespie (21:02):


Jan Fook (21:03):

But holding that for 20 years and seeing himself as a bad social worker was not true. I wasn’t gonna use the word true, but it wasn’t for him.

Cassie Gillespie (21:13):

. No. Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Listening to you, I think that some of the terms we use to talk about those experiences in the workplace are maybe secondary trauma or trauma exposure response in the workplace. What is your response, or, or what are your thoughts about the relationship between traumas right? And things that we would identify as traumas and the things that people want to open up and explore through a critical reflection process?

Jan Fook (21:45):

Terribly hard question Cassie. I have some thoughts about the concept of trauma.

Cassie Gillespie (21:50):

I thought you might.

Jan Fook (21:51):

And in relation to critical reflection, I think it’s important to recognize that there’s many different emotions.

Cassie Gillespie (21:59):

Mm-hmm .

Jan Fook (22:00):

And some of them may be best labeled as trauma and others may not. I think one of the issues that comes up in critical reflection is that often people are traumatized because their experience has been labeled as trauma. And what that says to me is that often our fashionable or current ways of thinking about experience do not fit the experience of the person.

Cassie Gillespie (22:25):

Mm-Hmm. .

Jan Fook (22:25):

In fact, this is what often occurred to me when first doing critical reflection is that many workers experienced a dilemma because the available concepts and theories did not feel that they were authentic.

Cassie Gillespie (22:40):

mm-hmm. .

Jan Fook (22:40):

in terms of the person’s own experience as they perceived it. So what we try to do with critical reflection is find an authentic way of understanding that experience, which may not even be in the literature. May not even been articulated before. Sometimes trauma fits. And sometimes if a worker can say, well that was actually traumatizing, just acknowledging that is helpful, but trying to fit their experience into trauma doesn’t always work. So what we try to do is we create a category of words that work for how that person perceives their experience.

Cassie Gillespie (23:18):

And so is that person instrumental in creating the category of words themselves? So it’s their words.

Jan Fook (23:24):

Absolutely vital part of critical reflection. Once people get their assumptions out and they start to understand more what that means for them, we then help them put words to it. So I call that developing their own theory of practice.

Cassie Gillespie (23:39):

Oh, very cool.

Jan Fook (23:39):

Yeah. And people love it. That’s the creative side of it.

Cassie Gillespie (23:43):

Yeah. Okay, so you’ve worked with many people over many years in many countries doing this. What are some of the benefits you’ve noticed for people?

Jan Fook (23:52):

Sorry, I’m, I can’t help myself from laughing because I’m remembering some of the really interesting things that people have said. The one that really surprised me the most was they said, I’ve learned to be kind to myself and each other. Because often social workers in particular are very judgemental of ourselves and other people.

Cassie Gillespie (24:13):


Jan Fook (24:14):

Actually, even though we say we’re not, we are. And that kindness and generosity I think is so important, but it means that once we can extend that to ourselves, we can do it for other people.

Cassie Gillespie (24:26):

Mm-Hmm. .

Jan Fook (24:26):

So the ability to work with people who are really different from us and to understand and accept them is such a positive thing. The second biggest thing that happens is people often come with what they see is a dilemma. So when they talk about their experience, it’s a dilemma for them that they can’t resolve

Cassie Gillespie (24:45):

Like the man with the experience of the child’s removal.

Jan Fook (24:47):

And, and they just can’t move on.

Cassie Gillespie (24:49):

Mm-Hmm. ,

Cassie Gillespie (24:49):

It stays with them. What critical reflection seems to do is allows them to move on because they find a different way of seeing it and also integrating it into themselves and who they see themselves as. And it’s very freeing. Actually, they talk about feeling liberated or empowered or freed, actually. It’s like the dilemma has kept them in some kind of bonds.

Cassie Gillespie (25:12):


Jan Fook (25:12):

And then they can move on. So it’s, yeah. It’s, it’s actually really delightful to experience.

Cassie Gillespie (25:17):

It sounds like healing.

Jan Fook (25:19):

It is kind of a healing. Yeah.

Cassie Gillespie (25:21):

That’s wonderful. What would you say has surprised you the most in your work? The critical reflection.

Jan Fook (25:30):

I think, and I say this with a little bit of sadness. One of my students characterized critical reflection as radical listening. Now I, I know that’s a term that’s been round. It surprised me that we had to learn that .

Cassie Gillespie (25:45):


Jan Fook (25:45):

Because I thought that we should do that naturally.

Cassie Gillespie (25:49):


Jan Fook (25:49):

And I know how we learn as social workers to be empathic, but that’s not the same as really deep listening.

Cassie Gillespie (25:55):


Jan Fook (25:56):

And we don’t do that well because often as professionals, we feel we have to have the answers.

Cassie Gillespie (26:02):


Jan Fook (26:02):

We have to have them quickly.

Cassie Gillespie (26:04):

We have to be right.

Jan Fook (26:05):

We have to be right. And that stops us from listening and understanding an experience, which might be really different. So it’s a little bit threatening, I think, to, to open yourself up, to hear a very different experience and to realize you didn’t understand that.

Cassie Gillespie (26:20):

Mm-hmm. .

Jan Fook (26:21):

Or that you didn’t know that before. So I’m kind of surprised that that’s the way we’ve reacted and what we’ve need to learn.

Cassie Gillespie (26:28):


Jan Fook (26:29):

And, and I’ve, I’ve really worked at helping people to learn that. That’s in a, in some ways what the critical reflection process does.

Cassie Gillespie (26:36):

It’s really all about. Mm. That’s marvelous. This is a little bit of a teaser, but our episode next week is with a man named Corey B. Best. And I think bringing a critically reflective approach to, you know, for any listeners out there, we’ll challenge you to use some of Jan’s wisdom as you’re listening to our very next episode because Corey will offer a very different perspective than many folks have offered previously. Okay. So we’re, we’re running short on time. This is always the, the no fun part. What if people are only gonna walk away with one thing? What do you want them to take away from this conversation Jan?

Jan Fook (27:12):

I think there’s something about humility.

Cassie Gillespie (27:15):


Jan Fook (27:16):

And I’m also calling a reflective space, a courageous and generous one.

Cassie Gillespie (27:22):


Jan Fook (27:23):

And it, you also learn humility in doing that. And I know these will sound like funny things cuz you can’t run a course on humility.

Cassie Gillespie (27:31):

I bet we could .

Jan Fook (27:33):

I dunno how many people would take it.

Cassie Gillespie (27:35):

That’s fair.

Jan Fook (27:36):

But it is something about reinforcing those really, really, really basic values of being relational that’s so important. Cuz I think we have lost the art of doing that.

Cassie Gillespie (27:47):


Jan Fook (27:47):

So yeah. That’s, that’s a good takeaway.

Cassie Gillespie (27:50):

Okay. So relational and generosity and courage and humility. For our listeners who are just smitten with you, where can they find you? Where can they learn more about what you do and what you know?

Jan Fook (28:04):

Oh, from this podcast?

Cassie Gillespie (28:05):

Yes. We’ll put some show links up too. ,

Jan Fook (28:08):

Sorry. This is a very good question. I have published a lot, but I tend not to think about what I’ve published. So probably the best book is one called Practicing Critical Reflection, which is written by myself and Fiona Gardner. This is gonna sound very funny because I don’t think it’s available anymore, , but that’s the book that actually outlines the whole process. If you just google my name.

Cassie Gillespie (28:34):

mm-hmm. .

Jan Fook (28:35):

Lots of books will come up.

Cassie Gillespie (28:37):

Okay. And we can put on our website with your biography and all those things, we can put a link to some of your publications as well.

Jan Fook (28:44):

Thanks, that’s great.

Cassie Gillespie (28:45):

All right. Well, thanks for coming in and talking with us. This has been wonderful.

Jan Fook (28:49):

Great. Pleasure. Thank you.

Cassie Gillespie (28:53):

Welcome to The Field is produced by the University of Vermont’s Child Welfare Training Partnership and the State of Vermont. Our theme music is composed and performed by local band Brick Drop. And our sound production and engineering is brought to you by Eagan Media Productions. We’d also like to give a special thank you to our in-house technical production assistant Emma Baird. For Welcome to the Field, I’m Cassie Gillespie, and we’ll see you next time.

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