Saturday, December 3, 2011

taking care of yourself vs. taking care of someone else

I had an unpleasant task this week. I needed to write to a participant in one of the groups I host and ask her not to return. The particulars of the group and why she wasn't a good fit are not of importance here. Suffice it to say that when I brought up the issue at a meeting (she wasn't there), all the other members of the group, including me, felt that she wasn't a good fit. And as host, I volunteered to communicate with her.

I had been uncomfortable in this woman's presence for some months but I probably would never have said anything if two other members hadn't approached me with their intention to withdraw from the group if she continued with us. So then I had to look at the dilemma. Did I want her gone because I was uncomfortable or did I think it best for the group if she left? And what about her feelings?

Some relationships are easy to end. You spend a couple of times with an acquaintance, don't care for her, and you say no to the next invitation or two and she gets the hint and you both move on. If I don't like working with a client, I don't take the next job. If I don't like the energy or style of a teacher, I don't take another workshop. But when you open a group to the public and accept all comers as members, it's a lot trickier to disengage.

Our decision was not made lightly and I took some comfort in that. We were all also conscious that this would be difficult news for her to hear. And I appreciated that we talked about that before making our decision. And I sent the letter.

If you've read this blog for a while, you may remember I had a similar decision to make and action to take a year or so ago, when one person's energy and needs didn't fit my retreat group. And so life comes around again with another messy situation. I felt stronger this time. When I got the woman's response this week, I didn't respond with the details she wanted, and just reiterated our decision. I knew there was nothing to be gained for her or us by telling her the reasons. She either knew anyway or didn't really want to know and just wanted to argue. I was sorry for her sadness but relieved for us.

It is not easy to balance taking care of what you need and want and considering what will happen to the Other if you speak up for that. But the alternative of irritation veiled in politeness, of a kind of emotional swimming upstream, isn't acceptable. So I'm slowly learning to speak my truth with more tact and more kindness, and yet still speaking it.  

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