This is probably a touchy subject for a lot of people. No one wants to acknowledge that it isn't always “fun” volunteering or being in a situation where you don't feel like you can extricate yourself politely. Even when you really do need to get out of there. I totally get it. It's hard to tell someone you need space or a moment to reset or to end the conversation altogether. So What's to be done then? How can we keep our boundaries while still being generous? I'm so glad you asked!
That is exactly what this video is all about. There are some vague and roundabout threads in the video but bear with me, I promise it'll be helpful.
Coiling Snakes… in the Pit of Your Stomach
Ever feel that coldness starting in the pot of your stomach when you are in a situation that is making you feel uncomfortable? Maybe you can't quite put your finger on why you're uncomfortable and it doesn't make sense. But you can feel that sense of dread and panic starting to creep into every part of your being. Sends shivers through me just writing about it.
What do you do if that feeling hits you when you are working with someone who really isn't “doing anything” to make you feel that way, it's just your reaction? I don't have the answer for every situation, but I do know what I've done when this happens to me. The first thing I do is assess the situation.
- I determine whether or not I'm in immediate danger
- Identify potential people who can help me if things escalate
- Do my best to ascertain whether or not the other person has malicious intent
First and foremost it is not your or my responsibility to prevent or mitigate something from happening. All we can do is our best when it comes to interacting with others. If you are conducting yourself with compassion, understanding, and knowing your own boundaries, you will be farther ahead than most.
Practicing Compassion & Boundaries
Practicing compassion and boundaries. Yes, this can be done at the same time. I'm going to give you an example of what I'm talking about. Imagine you are sitting with someone and having a conversation. Maybe you are volunteering by helping them tell their stories and writing down notes to share with their family.
The conversation may start out normal and in the realm of your comfort zone. Imagine though that at some point it veers into territory you are not comfortable talking about. The topic itself doesn't matter, what matters is how you are feeling in the conversation. The feelings of the other person also matter. So how do we navigate a moment and a conversation where one person is okay and one is not?
Start with the assessment points above and then examine how you are feeling. if you go through the assessment above and you feel like it's truly just a matter of you being uncomfortable, then it's a matter of deciding what you need to move the conversation in a different direction. This can be done in a variety of ways with two examples being
- Classic conversation redirection – asking a question that completely changes the topic
- Getting help from someone else in the vicinity
Regardless of how you choose to proceed, approaching the situation with care and grace will serve you well.
Gael, The Legacy Lady