Ever reach out trying to help someone, only to have them turn their emotions back on you? Making you wonder why you even bothered in the first place. Sure, only they hold the key to their shackles, but their responses can leave us emotionally spinning.
When we reach out to others, we always do so with an intention. Now, let’s be blunt here; we tend to tell ourselves that our intentions are always pure and kind, but when we feel disappointed by the reactions that we receive, it quickly becomes clear that our efforts were also layered with expectations.
There is a woman in my neighborhood who has utilized every dog walker that services our area. Whenever I see her out with her dog, she is on her cell phone, completely frazzled, and paying absolutely no attention to her surroundings. I’ve known her for years, and over those years she has insulted me to my face, and then turned around and come to me for help. The truth is, I now recognize that she is abusive.
Over the past few weeks this neighbor has been texting me about how much she dislikes her current dog walker; calling her horrible names, challenging her business practices, and completely dismissing the fact that she once did the same to me. I personally know her dog walker because she and I have been working this area together for years, and instead of developing a rivalry, we developed a friendship. I often recommend clients to her, as she has a bigger business than me, and can accommodate more dogs. She also walks my personal dogs when I am in need.
I received a text message from my dog walker friend, early in the day, saying she was no longer servicing my neighbor’s dog. She asked if I was around because my neighbor, who knows I work in the area during the day, had told her to give me her house keys so that I could return them to her. Please note that my neighbor had not reached out to me to ask if this was alright; she merely expected it.
I decided to reach out to my neighbor; explaining that because I care about her, and her dog, and because the dog walking community is so tight-knit, that perhaps she might take an introspective look at how she’s treating these businesses and see if there is a reason why many of them have closed their doors to her. I shared that several felt she was often verbally abuse to them, as well as frequently bad mouthing them to others. If you are smiling to yourself because you know this ended badly, then give yourself a gold star. My neighbor told me to never contact her again. She then continued texting me to shame and berate me. Apparently this is a hard lesson for me to learn, as it’s come up twice recently. You can’t help those who love being in their self-inflicted shackles. Let me say that again– You can not help someone who is not open to help.
The truth is, I suspected this would be the outcome going into it, yet I still felt compelled to try for her dog’s sake. She was burning all her bridges, and I thought I could help show her that. I genuinely do care about her, despite how unkind she often is. Most people avoid her, and for that, I pity her.
So, why did I need to step in? It wasn’t my situation to involve myself in. There are plenty of folks who want coaching, so why was I reaching out to someone who was abusive and closed off? Was I trying to wear a hero’s cape? When I analyzed my intentions, I think my deepest intention was to alert my neighbor that she was treating others abusively, and while, yes, I do care about her dog’s ability to get coverage, I mostly cared about trying to help an abuser find awareness. When I allowed myself to acknowledge that, well, it’s no wonder it didn’t go over well. Curiously, when she told me to end contact, I genuinely felt relief. I ultimately had expected it, and maybe that was even part of the driving force; to set a clearer, more protective boundary.
Take a moment and think about a time when you’ve reached out, thinking your heart was pure, but yet, when the person responded, you felt triggered or upset. This is a clear indication that you were holding an expectation, and it’s those reactions that can serve as our reminders to reevaluate our actual intentions. Treat yourself with kindness as you do this, because the more truthful you can be with yourself, the more you can grow.