It's mental health awareness week, and this year's theme is 'Kindness'.
Defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate... sounds great, right? I think we all try to do that. But it's not always easy. Fine to be kind to someone who accepts your kindness, but what happens when they don't?
What about when they're angry, for example?
In my years of NHS work, I have met more than my fair share of angry people and I would say, without exception, all of them have been angry because they are anxious, scared or in pain. (I acknowledge that this is not the case with all anger, and the following is in no way meant to condone behaviour that is any way abusive)
So for anyone, who works with people, I can highly recommend a Solution Focused approach to allow you to remain kind when faced with anger.
1) Don't start with an apology. In a busy clinic, it's really easy to start your conversation with "so sorry to have kept you waiting" You may well be, but that doesn't help your client/patient who has been sat on a plastic chair for an hour. Instead, try "Thank you for waiting for me" It's a subtle difference but it's a question that allows someone to reflect, even momentarily on their skills and attributes (patience, stoicism or a sense of fairness, for example). I can guarantee you'll be off to a better start.
2) Acknowledge the problem. People need to tell you stuff... let them, and don't argue. Rightly or wrongly, their perception is their perception.
3) But don't amplify it. "Oh my goodness, that sounds dreadful!" is not going to be helpful. "It sounds like you've had a rough time" is often enough.
4) Ask the right questions. I find "What would you like to happen now?" is a good one. It pulls people away from the upset of whatever made them angry, and obliges them to 'forward' focus'. You might not be able to do whatever it is that they come up with, but it gives you a productive conversation to work from.
People who work with people generally start from a position of kindness, a desire to be friendly, generous and considerate, and with a real drive to help people.
Learning how to use a Solution Focused Approach can be invaluable in maintaining and enhancing these incredible attributes, can allow you to remain kind, with all the associated mental health benefits that entail... not least of which, avoiding 'burnout'.