Chance encounters with other peer support members, outside the support group setting, can sometimes create unnecessary discomfort. Outside of the group environment, most members are not always sure what the rules of engagement should be. As a best practice, most group facilitators will collaborate with members to develop group guidelines, to reduce some of the possible discomfort associated with this.
If your group does not have guidelines that address this issue, here are four tips for effectively engaging with your peers, outside the group:
- Respect personal boundaries. If you run into someone outside your group, allow your peer to acknowledge you before saying hello.
- Ensure that what is discussed in the group stays within the group. If your peer acknowledges you outside the group, do not bring up topics discussed in the group (do this only with the explicit permission of your peer).
- Accept that not everyone will want a friendship outside the group. Do not personalize a peers’ decision, to keep your relationship within the confines of the group. For a variety of reasons, not everyone will be comfortable bonding with their peers outside the group.
- Establish guidelines for friendships developed outside the group. It is perfectly fine to develop a friendship with someone in your peer support group. However, to foster a healthy friendship it is a good practice to make a clear distinction between the goal of the group, and your personal relationship. If this is not done the friendship can become a replacement for (or an extension of) the peer support group.