Have you ever found yourself in this unfortunate situation? You are in the presence of someone whose behavior and intention alerts you. Your intuition, good sense, experience, and moral code come crashing together with clear understanding that what this person is thinking and doing is not only self defeating but harmful to others. Most of us have found ourselves in this often scary and compromised situation. So, what do you do? Your response can be anywhere from doing and saying nothing to organizing some kind of intervention. Before you act here are some things to consider. How close are you to this person? Do they trust you? Are they a significant other, a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger? How urgent is the feared outcome? Is the risk minimal or potentially lethal? How much would your intervention influence the outcome?
A client of mine came in for her session one day with a distressing dilemma. She wanted some advice as to what to do. A relatively new friend had confidentially shared with her some very personal information about her personal life. At first it was just “girl friend talk” where my client would simply lend a compassionate ear. But over time the situation her acquaintance shared become more disconcerting. My client had a code of silence when it came to gossip and intervention. She even believed it was best to say nothing in situations like this. She was willing to lend a caring ear but not take it any further. She figured that what her acquaintance did was her business and that her mistakes were her mistakes. Let her learn her life lessons the way most of us do…through experience. But that day my client was privy to information that put her new friend’s child in emotional danger. Her friend and her friend’s husband were not only arguing but were fighting physically. The child was clearly in the middle and was no doubt suffering. “What do I do?” asked my client. “Do I call child services? Do I lecture my friend? Should I tell her what I think?” My client was beside herself with indecision. She had heard of so many cases where a child was involved and nothing was done to help the child. She wanted to help somehow but was afraid of alienating her new friend while accomplishing nothing by intervening. Since I didn’t know the exact extent of the abuse reported I had no direct advice to give her regarding what to do. However, I did ask her to become very still for a while, close her eyes, and ask her intuitive self to help her know what to do. She sat for many minutes in silence. Finally she opened her eyes and said that she knew what to do. She would continue to listen to her friend and get a deeper sense of the situation and if guided to do so would ask her friend if she would be willing to tell someone else, like a therapist, what is going on.
Often it is difficult to know what to say or do. However, if you are willing to trust your intuition and take the time to sit with the problem you can have the best of guidance.