You’re Making Me Feel Uncomfortable!

I like people to talk, to tell me about themselves, to share their anxieties and fears, and to work with me to build their confidence and develop a positive mindset.  It’s not everybody’s cup of tea though is it?  And while some people embrace me and what I’m trying to do, others very consciously avoid me or look disconcerted whenever I share the same space as them.  As if I can magically drag their secrets, fears and worries out of them, even if they don’t want to share them with me!  Which of course I can’t.  Well, not every day 😉  Do you sometimes get that ‘you’re making me feel uncomfortable!’ response when you’re offering people help and support?

It Takes Courage To Ask For Help

Personal development work is not an easy choice and while the people I work with are sometimes feeling low or less than fabulous about themselves I wish they could see themselves through my eyes, feeling warmth and admiration for the fact that they’ve been brave enough to ask for help.  To acknowledge that something is happening in their life or with how they’re feeling about themselves, that warrants an ask for help.  Those fabulous people have recognised a problem and found the courage to make themselves feel uncomfortable and engage with some form of support.  It’s inspiring stuff!

You Can Take A Horse To Water…

How do you address an issue with someone and offer support if they don’t perceive there to be an issue or if they feel so uncomfortable that they’re very reluctant to engage with you?  If there is an issue to be addressed, whether they perceive it to be one or not, then the conversation must be had, whether they want to give further details of why there might be a problem or not.  If you start to get to the ‘why’ part of the conversation and the other person starts to feel uncomfortable, give them some time and space to think about whether today’s the day when they’ll take the first step to be open and honest about what they’re struggling with.  It’s possibly the first time they’ll be honest with themselves about it, as well as another person so try to build a safe environment for them to take that first step.  Maintain eye contact but not to the extent that you’re challenging or pleading with them to talk.  Smile and show that you’re listening but don’t fill the space with chatter.  It can feel uncomfortable but try to give them a couple of minutes of silence if you can, to give them the space to make the decision as to whether they’re prepared to talk to you or not.

If someone can’t find the courage to take that first step and talk about their difficulties, offer them ongoing support and opportunities to speak at a later date.  Also arrange a follow up meeting to make sure you check in again, possibly in a couple of weeks.  Find another safe space to have that conversation, to offer another opportunity for the person to ask for support, if they feel able to.  If someone doesn’t feel able to share their problems with you, as much as you feel you’re a safe pair of hands, that’s about their journey, not yours.  Because you’ve made them feel comfortable and they know they can come and talk to you, they may well open up to you in the future.  They will know when the time is right for them and knowing that they have a lovely, supportive person to speak to when they’re ready to is a wonderful thing 😊

You Can’t Force It

One thing’s for sure, if you make people feel uncomfortable, they will disengage from you, particularly if they are being asked to share more personal feelings and experiences.  All you can do is make an offer of support.  After that, the choice of whether to engage with your offer is with the other person, which can be frustrating if you feel they would benefit from your support!  But it’s about them, not you, regardless of how fabulous your support skills are! 😊  In a workplace, someone has to engage with you to some extent, particularly if there’s an issue to be addressed.  At home those conversations can be harder to manage, especially if you see someone you love is struggling but they’re not prepared to talk about it. 

As hard as it can be to step back when you can see a loved one is struggling, that’s the approach that will give them the space to move forward and have that conversation with you, eventually.  If you try to nag it out of them, they will resist for some reason!  Can’t think why!!  Give people the time and space to think things through, in the knowledge that you’re there for them when they’re ready to talk.  Do nice things for them to support their wellbeing, particularly if they’re struggling to do that for themselves but don’t make it conditional.  “I’ve done some really nice things for you recently and you still won’t talk to me!!”.  Not good.

Our feelings are fragile things, even with the people we love and care about.  It takes a lot of courage to admit we’re struggling, especially if we’ve been put in a ‘coping very well’ box in people’s heads.  The time it takes someone to take that first step to admitting they’re struggling can be proportionate to how big they perceive the problem to be so just keep offering support, unconditionally and saying that you’re there for the other person if they want to talk.  Not when, if.  It’s not a personal affront if they look for other avenues of support, it might just be that they don’t want to burden you with something and feel that external support will allow them to offload and work through something without bringing it into your environment.

Tread Carefully

If you’re talking to someone about their personal ‘stuff’ it’s very likely that they’ll feel uncomfortable so tread carefully please, step gently.  We can all be very solution-focussed, especially when we’re busy and try to tick problems off a list of things to do.  To offer a solution without really hearing the full story of why something is difficult.  But with worries and anxieties, insecurities and embedded beliefs, and even wonderful hopes and dreams we can all feel nervous about opening our hearts to other people.  If you can create a safe space and demonstrate that you can be trusted with someone’s personal stuff, then you will create great relationships and wonderfully supportive conversations.  You might need to prove those trust credentials though, that someone’s smaller life difficulties are safe with you and only then will you get into the deeper stuff.

Take good care please, be supportive and kind, and have a great day!

Best wishes, Karen