When it comes to interacting with someone who is sensitive or struggling with their mental health, it can be difficult to navigate a kind and compassionate approach that also sets boundaries. Many times, especially if we feel particularly sorry for this person, it's easy to feel moved by the situation and that leads us to clamp down on our own boundaries out of the desire to help. This is an understandable impulse, but it often ends up accentuating rather than relieving the situation.
The truth is that being kindness doesn't mean giving up your autonomy – in fact, it's quite the opposite. A timid refusal to assert one's limits can result in becoming a doormat for the other person, which undermines true kindness and ultimately does more damage. When you are willing and able to set limits while still retaining compassion, that demonstrates true understanding – not to mention respect – for yourself and the other person involved.
You can show your understanding by not just listening attentively to the person's situation, but actively sympathizing with them. The ability to relate to their feelings (and letting them know as such) often helps create a safe space in which they can further unburden themselves and start to move on. At the same time, you can gently suggest that although you do understand where they are coming from, you must also express your own limitations and ask they do the same.
This is a tricky balance to find and it may require much trial and error. If at certain point you realize that the situation is beyond your capability for consolation and guidance, don't be afraid to suggest or even coordinate a visit to professional services such as therapy or counseling that can truly make a difference for the afflicted individual.
Even if a little bit of empathy and compassion goes a long way, there must always be a boundary between taking care of ourselves and enabling others to walk over us. Though it may seem like being kind means losing sight of our needs, finding a middle ground will actually better equip us to help the other person in need while also respecting our own humanity. framing kindness within limit-setting creates an environment of understanding built off mutual trust and strong self-knowledge, allowing us to both be heard and understood.