This happened many years ago in Allahabad:
I was fond of buying cheap books from the roadside. There was a pavement book shop in Civil Lines, those days – specialising is Russian books. Cheap but good authors. Even when I could not buy them, I loved handling them, looking at them, browsing them for hours. The owner did not seem to mind. One day, he actually began talking to me, just like that:
“That book in your hand by Pushkin is a Penguin classic and originally costs over a hundred. This one is just 20 rupees. You like it?”
“ ‘War and Peace’ is over there. What do you think?”
“ I – I – I think it is a good book..” I stammered.
But the guy continued:
“It is a complicated theme. Don’t you agree?”
My swollen ego could not keep quiet. After all, I had read it, even if I understood only a third of it! Somebody was asking for my opinion on the book! Wow!
“It is a bi- bi-beeg story of many ge-ge-ge-generations of characters, wa-wa-wars and a lot of philosophy too..” I completed somehow my big sentence in one breath, hoping that this would be last exchange between me and the shop keeper. But I was wrong. He was not put off by my stammering.
“Please tell me more about it. Because I tried to read it three times but could not go beyond first chapter…”
I started again, trying to tell him the plot. He was listening to me carefully. He would ask small questions here and there and then listen to me attentively. He was in his forties, probably a well educated but unemployed man, who was trying to earn a little money by selling books on the pavement.
As we continued, I began to love this discussion- something I had not done till then. Talking was always an effort and a battle for me. I was in my late teens. No body had ever asked my opinion about anything, certainly not on “War and Peace”! I felt important, respected. I continued stumbling and talking for more than an hour. There was no other customer. Evening was approaching. Finally I bought a book, grabbed my bicycle and pedalled home- feeling quite happy.
That was my first experience of peer counselling. Of course, I do not know whether the shop keeper was a peer (whether he too stammered like me) or not. But he certainly was a thoughtful and kind person and provided me a memorable conversational experience. Other nice people arrived in my life over the following years and today, stammering is a thing of past for me.
So, this is what peer counselling is all about. If you are in TISA mooc (or TOPG), this is a useful skill.
In a nutshell, you develop a good, friendly relationship with the person, based on equality and mutual respect. You earn his faith and allow him to share whatever is bothering him or her. You give him space to freely articulate his problem (I cant give roll call; I have no friends; I have failed three interviews; I am being bullied..). Then, you encourage him/her to think or brainstorm about all the options/ solutions available to them.
Next, you go over pros and cons of these solutions/ options and guide them to decide on ONE course of action. In implementing this option, you offer them, your practical help, information and other resources. Last, you mutually decide a follow up plan and date. As you can see, you are supposed to LISTEN rather than TELL. If you think you are someone people trust and talk to, learn more about peer counselling by googling and watching some youtube videos on this subject. Begin with this 5 min video:
“Great Opportunities to help others seldom come but small ones surround us everyday” (Sally Koach)
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” (Anne Frank)