Not my circus, not my monkeys is often attributed as a Polish proverb. I don’t know whether that is true or not, but I do know that I repeat that phrase in my head multiple times a day (especially on the hard days).
When you are working with people in difficult and sensitive circumstances, it is very easy to fall into mirroring their emotions and getting caught up in their personal dramas. It is an important balance act to be empathic and understanding, but to also maintain professional perspective and remember that the personal circumstances your clients, friends, and family are dealing with are not your personal circumstances.
We’ve all had the experience of wanting to cry while we watch someone else cry or getting angry while someone else angrily recounts an episode. It can be hard not to take those strong emotions on and react in a similar manner.
It’s easy to listen to a client’s anger and then channel that emotion into dealing with the other party. That is when it is important to remember that you can’t control the individuals, their relationship, or their life circumstances. It’s not your circus and it’s not your monkeys. All you can do is try to provide as many reasoned options available as possible and help provide them the guidance to become the ringleader of their own circus.