I wonder sometimes...is everything about me?
I had an interesting conversation with a fellow colleague who had just graduated from social work school. He asked me “how do you not take everything personally when working with clients?” He had just gotten yelled at by a client in a therapy group again.
His question got me thinking about an interaction with an IT guy at the clinic earlier in the week. My computer refused to save a referral form that I had completed for the 30th time and I was frustrated and informed the IT guy about my frustrations. Well, at least that’s how I thought it was playing out. But, then the IT guy began to get defensive and stated that he is new and has no control over things. I realized that he was taking my ranting personally. I stopped and explained that I was frustrated with my computer and that I was just venting. I also informed him that I simply “needed for him to listen” to me. He was happy to hear that I wasn’t frustrated with him. He focused on fixing my IT issue and just listened. Once I was done, he vented to me about being a new IT guy and customers yelling at him for their computer problems, like he was personally causing their computers to not work. We were able to bond over our frustrations.
Sometimes people are just having a bad day. It may feel like they are yelling at us about something we did, but really it’s about something else. We have all been in this situation. When this happens to me, I try to take a moment to assess the larger picture. I always apologize if I have upset them in any way. I then try to figure out if there is something more going on. I validate their feelings in the moment and then try to engage them in a conversation about other things that are going on in their lives. Sometimes the interaction with us is like the saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. The interaction was the thing to set them off, but really there is more to the situation.
I would like to think that I’m special and everything is about me, but really I’m not special and sometimes things are about a person just being overwhelmed in their lives and needing to be heard. I think we all have felt that way at some point if not every day. So, in a tough situation take a moment to play observer to see if there is something more going on in the situation. We are special, but not everything is about us.