Tuning Inward with Rachael Dietkus

Most of us think of trauma as the  capital “T” kind: war, natural disasters, serious abuse. But day-to-day life is full of smaller traumas, and those need to be processed, too: bullying, work stress, the aftermath of the pandemic. Rachael Dietkus of Social Workers Who Design is on a mission to help us do just that.

Rachael Dietkus is a writer, author, and social worker focused on the ways trauma shapes how and why we design. Through her organization Social Workers Who Design, Rachael and her team work to normalize and codify trauma-informed practices in design workplaces.

We've demonstrated a certain kind of toughness and unplanned resilience that has really been built on this collective trauma of living through a pandemic. And so there can be some power and some comfort in that. I think that with all of the adaptability and need to be adaptable throughout the past several months, what it has really shown us is that we now need flexibility. So is there flexibility in scheduling? Is there flexibility in how and where we work? 

I have sometimes used this phrase that I personally have a very high threshold, but a quick tipping point. I see that in a lot of people. You know, there's just this like, "Well, everyone else is doing it. It can't really be that bad." And the more that we just keep suppressing and deserting those cues that we're getting, the more it's just building, building, building. And at some point, the body is going to respond.

—Rachael Dietkus, founder of Social Workers Who Design

We talk about:

  • The parallels between social work and design
  • How designers can look to social workers to be more trauma-informed
  • What is trauma? And how can we become more aware of it?
  • Healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with our own personal traumas
  • How to build a trauma-informed, human-centered workplace 
  • Why “bring your whole self to work” is dangerous
  • Relational empathy versus transactional empathy

Plus: in this week’s You’ve Got This, Sara talks about the importance of specificity in our feelings and how that can help us get out of “comparison mode.” Are you really “just stressed,” or are you feeling something else: shame, betrayal, anger? Ask yourself, what is my anger telling me? What triggered it? What can I learn from this feeling? What unmet needs do I have here? For all this and more, check out https://www.activevoicehq.com/podcast.