Last night at an event which had nothing to do with work by any stretch of the imagination, I met the neighbour of the daughter of a woman that I visit.
She recognised me because I had visited the flat next to her and she’d have seen me coming and going and – as became apparent – the neighbours had chatted!
Generally she reported via daughter positive things about me (or else she was very discreet!).
‘Oh, you are Mrs S’s nurse, aren’t you?’
My gut instinct to shout ‘No, I’m not a nurse’ was tempered by the thought that this is probably what she had been told and in some ways, I can understand that it may create less waves to say your mother is seeing a nurse regularly than to say she is seeing a social worker.
I smiled, specifically trying not to nod in confirmation because I didn’t want to deny it but nor did I want to claim a status that I didn’t have or place the family in a difficult position.
I confirmed I’d see her around and what did she think of the problems with the lift in the block where she lived trying to shift the conversation away from the personal.
Spotting her chance though, she turned the conversation to a second-hand dialogue about her neighbours thoughts of the services. Although I’d consider myself a sociable person, it was more than a little awkward as I really don’t want to be discussing anyone else and neither did I want to tell her to shut up.
I manipulated the conversation more successfully to the lack of any vegetarian-based sandwiches at the reception and the choice of herbal teas available. I think I must remember to talk about food in these situations – that will always get a response!
I like to think it was a bit of transference of communication skills to a more practical setting.