Validation Training Institute

VTI Blog

Awkward Situations

By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President

All of us have experienced the discomfort and embarrassment caused by socially awkward situations. You run into your old boyfriend arm in arm with his new girlfriend unexpectedly and it throws you for a loop. You under dress for an important occasion and feel like all eyes are condemning you. You tell a white lie, but get caught. While these situations may be mortifying, they pale in comparison with some of the social dilemmas caused by the pandemic which make people feel truly uncomfortable and even unsafe. What do you do when the person behind you in a check-out line is standing inside the six foot marker and is not wearing a face mask? How do you react when a stranger suddenly shouts a profanity at you in public? How do you explain to a guest that he cannot come inside your home? COVID-19 has added a whole new level of social awkwardness as well as distrust of others, even friends.

People are also reacting in unusual ways to higher levels of stress these days. Some lash out and may become physically violent towards family members, while others recede into solitude and depression. Some want to party hard, seemingly without regard to the consequences for themselves or others. Many people seem to be more short tempered, impatient, and rude. Still others avoid human interactions completely and find surrogates, choosing to play computer games with  anonymous competitors or adopt new pets. Some social scientists say that isolation during the pandemic has weakened peoples’ social skills including intuitive judgments about interpreting words, gestures,  and expressions, and reacting appropriately. We are not exercising our social skills enough and it shows.

Caregivers of older adults living with cognitive decline are facing new awkward situations with them. How do you tell Dad that it is time to hand over his car keys? How do you communicate while wearing a face mask? Not only are caregivers overwhelmed by stress during the pandemic shutdown, but older adults living with dementia  are also feeling heightened anxiety and projecting their emotions in inappropriate ways toward their professional caregivers, families, and other residents of care communities as well. These challenging behaviors often escalate, leaving their caregivers baffled, worried, and feeling helpless. Some examples are false accusations, abusive language, sexual expressions, and racist slurs.

VTI has been developing  a “How to …” and “What do you do when…” video series on their YouTube page to help caregivers deal with many of the typical awkward situations mentioned above. A new set of videos are in the works, specifically aimed at handling sexual expressions and communicating through a window (due to COVID quarantine rules). These role-plays, starring Naomi Feil, will help you learn to use Validation techniques to defuse such situations. Have questions for Naomi? Memory Bridge is hosting a Q&A session on September 17th at 12pm PDT/ 3pm EST, you can register here.