Definitions of challenging behaviour that ignore context aren’t just wrong – they’re actually damaging and cause more problems than they solve.
We nurses aren’t perfect. We generally spend our time trying to sort out problems that we didn’t cause. That’s more than most people do. It’s more than the majority of our critics.
But no matter how hard we try, sometimes we fail. Sometimes we don’t fail but people place such unrealistic expectations on our practice, make such unrealistic demands of us that we face criticism, insults, even threats of violence for not living up to the demands of others.
People can disregard our efforts, they can slander us on social media and dismiss us as incompetent, callous fools if they like. That’s their right…
But we don’t have to agree with them!
When dealing with people whose behaviours are challenging it’s important to acknowledge that those behaviours may well be based upon some very deep-seated beliefs. Whilst we don’t need to agree with or even support beliefs that cause problems it is vital that we acknowledge the person’s right to hold them – even if we deny their assumed right to act upon them. It’s one thing to object to behaviours – it’s quite another to dismiss the person who holds those beliefs.
Most people are surprised to learn that they maintain (and often actually create) the problems they face. Often people will work hard to resist this idea and that can be difficult to overcome but it’s worth the effort. Until people understand their own role in maintaining their difficulties they cannot really take responsibility for solving them. After all – if you don’t think you’re a part of the problem you won’t think that you need to change your behaviour to change it.
Challenging behaviour strategies aren’t necessarily complicated but they are powerful. It’s important then that we use them ethically. This video outlines some of the more basic points about ethics and philosophies of working with people who challenge us.
Everything humans do is behavioural. There’s no justification for using the label to hide our own inadequacies or laziness.
Sometimes the only way to protect the therapeutic relationship is temporarily to behave as though you have no concern whatsoever for the other person’s point of view. This seems counter-intuitive and it most certainly doesn’t ‘feel’ good but how we feel is often far less important than what we do.
It’s important not to allow anyone to use our emotions against us in order to influence our therapeutic decision-making. That’s a form of emotional blackmail. It’s also a very common behaviour strategy that people use because it often works.
You probably won’t be able to stop someone using this sort of underhand strategy with others but you certainly can stop them using it on you. The trick is to show them that it won’t work and then invite them to bring something better to your therapeutic relationship instead.
This is the latest video in the ‘Challenging behaviour’ series/playlist.
I’m developing a new video playlist on Challenging behaviour. See what you think.
My challenging behaviour stuff: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL59zKEzcDznaMz66vbIkbGOu3CtRXrxFQ
Here we build upon two earlier principles. Epictetus made it clear that we can only control our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours – not those of other people.
Marcus Aurelius taught us the 2 point maxim for dealing with abusive people…
1. Be the best me that I can be;
2. Be grateful that I’m not them.
Here we add another perspective from Seneca. Anger is only possible when the world doesn’t meet our expectations. If we adjust our expectations to reality the petty insults of others won’t hurt us at all.
In this, fourth Stoicism video we begin to show how it’s possible to layer Stoic wisdom, one point upon another to create a robust system of thought and attitude that really does defend us against those who seek to hurt, upset, anger or distress us.