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Skill: Keep Your Distance

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In some professions it is important that you keep your distance from clients or material. If you care too much about the suffering and problems of your clients, the work becomes very difficult. You take the things that you experience home, so that you can no longer relax properly. The art is to bring up empathy, but to guard your limits and to keep a certain distance.

When is it important to keep your distance?

Specially in professions where you are dealing with clients who are dependent on you in a certain sense, it is important to be able to keep your distance in a professional manner. That doesn't mean that you have to behave like an emotionless cool frog. The client, on the other hand, requires that you listen carefully and that you sympathize with him or her ( empathy ). But it is important for both the client and yourself that you draw boundaries in the empathy that you show. Why is it like that?

If you are going to cry, you will not help the client. He will become more dependent and feel helpless .

It is also important for yourself that you don't go too far in introducing the problem. The shoulders of one person are simply not made to bear the suffering of ten others. If you care too much about clients' problems, your workload will quickly become too high and you can collapse under the stress that this entails.

You can only make good decisions if you keep a little distance. If you are too emotionally involved, this will prevent you from making good, rational decisions. Only with some distance can you determine what is really good for the client.

Some behavior of clients is downright harmful, such as aggression. Keeping distance, naming behavior and making demands on how you want a client to behave are of the utmost importance.

Related properties

- Empathy
- Involvement
- Assertiveness
- Integrity
- Can listen well
- Decisiveness

In which professions is it necessary to keep your distance?

- Nurse
- Other healthcare professions
- Social worker
- Trainer
- Lawyer or other lawyer
- Interpreter
- Politician
- Desk clerk at government agency
- Manager
- Funeral director

How do you show when applying that you can keep your distance?

Suppose you apply as a debt counselor at a social work organization. There you will have to deal with families, mostly with young children, who have big money problems. They are grounded by debt and they are in danger of being evicted from their homes. The previous employee is sick at home with a burnout, because he could no longer see the suffering, specially of the children from the families. He went so far that in the evening, after work, he was handing out food packages at the food bank and that he occasionally put two of his clients out of pocket. He clearly had not managed to keep enough distance.

How do you show that you can keep sufficient distance in this position?

You keep your distance mainly by setting limits .

Think for yourself what the professional boundaries are that belong to your work. So that means: don't help at the food bank in the evening and don't put money in it.

Learn to leave the problem with the other person. His or her problem is not your problem. That sounds harsh, but replace this thought with: "my professional solution can help him / her further."

Recognize that clients don't benefit from too much dependence, even though they seem to ask for it. Precisely by keeping a certain distance, you give them confidence in their self-reliance.

In your letter of application and the job interview you will have to provide examples that show that you are able to draw boundaries. State how you behave in contacts with clients, and give examples of how you saved yourself from a difficult situation. Use the STAR method to describe these types of examples.

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