The RMBF wants to make sure your volunteering experience is as successful as possible, and so we ask you to follow these guidelines on various telephone befriending issues.

Boundaries

Clearly identified boundaries are essential in befriending for several reasons:

  • They protect both the RMBF PhoneFriend and their partner, by providing clarity about what is and is not acceptable behaviour
  • They give both parties greater confidence in opening up about sensitive issues, where otherwise they might feel vulnerable
  • They provide a clear framework, so that participants can recognise when to stop and question what they are doing

Dos and Don’ts

Here are a few issues to consider when you are talking to your beneficiary PhoneFriend:

  • Do recognise your own personal boundaries
  • Do avoid getting into situations that could be misunderstood
  • Do think before you say “yes” to a request for help
  • Do remember that the main focus of the relationship is the needs and progress of the other person
  • Don’t give out your home telephone number or address
  • Don’t take the other person to your own home
  • Don’t become emotionally over-involved

If you are ever in doubt about a boundary issue, speak to the VPM about it.

Self-disclosure

Self-disclosure means ‘opening up’ about your own personal experiences. Sharing these experiences can be helpful in strengthening the relationship. The other person may be more likely to see you as someone who is approachable and, in return, may be encouraged to share more about themselves. The skill is in deciding what and how much to reveal. Generally, good practice is to reveal only as much as is relevant and helpful.

Listed below are some general guidelines to help you decide when and how to share personal information:

  • Always be clear that your purpose is to help the other person express themselves more freely. When in doubt, don’t reveal anything
  • Keep it brief – focus on how you resolved a situation or how it felt, rather than talking about the detail
  • Be careful that you don’t distort the overall balance of the relationship – the other person should remain at the centre and focus of the relationship, not you

Demonstrating acceptance

The first task of befrienders is to develop a helping relationship where there is genuine acceptance. This means showing respect for and valuing the other person even if you don’t always agree with their behaviours and attitudes. Acceptance is demonstrated by:

  • valuing the other person separately from their actions
  • offering acceptance consistently and unconditionally
  • respecting the other person’s separateness and unique qualities
  • being aware of your own and the other person’s personal boundaries
  • putting your own opinions, judgments and preconceptions to one side
  • being able to accept yourself and acknowledge your own self worth

When the other person feels accepted, this helps them to:

  • develop trust
  • respect you and feel respected by you
  • become more willing to share their experiences and feelings with you, and talk about difficult subjects or behaviours
  • recognise that you have some understanding and insight of who they are and why they behave as they do

PhoneFriend Handbook index