After the Webinar: Lifelong Resilience. Q&A with Katharine Manning

Webinar presenter Katharine Manning answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Lifelong Resilience: Building a Sustainable Career in Criminal Justice. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question:  Any suggestions on getting into criminal justice at the entry-level roles and positions? 

Katharine Manning: Oh, gosh! That’s such a great question. You know, it’s been a long time, and I don’t really work with people who are entering the workforce, so I would appreciate it if anybody in the chat has ideas on that. Please drop that in the chat. I will say. You know I do a little bit of work with our local law enforcement community, and what I’ve heard there is, that they are really eager to have more people who want to go into law enforcement, and what they encourage is don’t limit yourself, don’t think. “Oh, you know I’ve had bad credit in the past, or something like that, and therefore I can’t do this.” They really do want to get more people into the field. And so, don’t keep yourself away from it. Some people in the chat are saying, “Do your internships at places you may want to work.” I think that’s a great idea, you know when I was at DOJ, the US Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Unit was a great place, they took college interns. Some people are saying, “I started off volunteering with the juvenile court system.” Some people are saying, “Be physically fit. It helps you to not worry about the mental part.” I think that’s probably really true. You know, it probably helps also manage a lot of the mental stress. People are saying, internships, ride-alongs, Americorps. One person says, “I did 2 internships where I work.” And “At the US Probation Office, they take interns as well.” That’s fantastic. You know, I first found my job at DOJ through USA Jobs. So,  I don’t think you have to have had great contacts or anything like that in order to do that. I think it’s worthwhile. Those internships, I think, are really helpful. In terms of helping, you understand what it is that you want to do. For me, doing an internship in law school was really helpful for me, and understanding what role I wanted as well. And somebody is saying also, “Think about working in shelters.” I mean, that’s where I started was just volunteering at a local shelter as well, and I know there are child advocacy centers as well for people who are interested in working with kids. Great question. Thank you. And great thanks for all the help, audience.


Audience Question:  Seeing your support system all retire is very lonely. How do you deal with this loneliness? 

Katharine Manning: Yeah, it is really hard. And I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing that right now. You know, I think that a lot of it is kind of being willing to put ourselves out there a little bit more. Those small connections. And one thing that I have always done is I come from a history of shyness. I’ve always been a person who felt really uncomfortable and shy in group settings. I’m going to tell you my little secret for that again. Maybe this helps you. What I would do is if I’m in a group setting where I think I don’t know anybody here, and I feel really shy, I pretend that I’m one of the hosts maybe sounds really silly, but if I pretend that I’m one of the hosts, then I am likely to go up to the person who is not talking to anybody else, and just say, “Hey, how are you?” and make them feel welcome, and that is how I have built some of my lifelong friendships, is just noticing the person who doesn’t have anybody to talk to, and spending a little time with them as well, because I think a lot of us are feeling lonely right now. It’s kind of an epidemic of loneliness that we’re experiencing in the US. So, I think if you are experiencing it, you are not alone in experiencing that. I also see in the chat people are saying, “Volunteering can really help.” I think that’s a really wise thing as well, somebody is saying, “Smile, someone will approach you.” Somebody else says I enjoy going to Farmer’s Market to take my minds off things,” and “Join dancing lessons where you don’t need a partner.” That’s great. I think that’s a really good one, too. I spoke with a friend recently who’s going through something similar, where she’s kind of a senior person in her office, and it’s very difficult to feel like she can open up because most of the people there are reporting to her, and she said, “You know, I think I’m going to take like a conversational Spanish class, or maybe a painting class, just as a way of building connections outside of work.” And then, yeah, other comments here in the chat, “There are lots of positives about working in the criminal justice system. One of them is the connections that we make as we find resources and programs for probation, reach out to one of them you really felt a connection to as a volunteer.” Great advice. I hope this is helpful. And then somebody is saying, “I knit as my yoga when I need to wind down from the stress of work.” I wish that I could knit you all. I tried it for a little while. This is when I was a DOJ, and was so stressed all the time, and people kept saying, “Knit, it’ll really help you.” I tried to. I tried to make a scarf, and it ended up being. It was like a potholder that was about this long, so I was tying the knot so tight, I was like, “I don’t think knitting is for me.” Other people are like, “I can’t do it either.”


Audience Question:  What do we do when we don’t know that we’re being stressed or think it’s the norm? Sometimes it’s stressful to retreat from stress. 

Katharine Manning: Yeah, it’s really good, you know. So, one of the things I think we all have to get better at is noticing our warning signs that we’re experiencing stress. It’s not always obvious. Sometimes it gets very obvious and it kind of clobbers you over the head right? But often it’s a lot more subtle, and if we can get better at noticing the more subtle signs of it, we can head them off and kind of take care of ourselves a little bit better over the long term. So, think about what the warning signs are for you. We talked about some at the beginning, right? So that weakened immune system, the cough that won’t go away, the headache that won’t go away, insomnia. A few others are things like when things that are normally fun start to feel like a burden. Like you’re somebody, “Gosh! I used to love running,” or you know, “I used to love to dance, and can’t even remember the last time I did it, and I can’t even imagine ever having the energy for that.” That’s a sign that you’re probably experiencing burnout. So, I think that’s some of those things, and I’d love to hear other kinds of warning signs in the chat. One person is saying, “My family told me,” I know, and that I hope that you took it in the spirit that they intended, which I hope was as being helpful. Sometimes we don’t notice it in ourselves, but the people around us will say, “Man, you’re prickly lately, so try to think about that and hear it as this is somebody who’s trying to help you. One person is saying, “If I start dreaming about work, I know that’s my sign, I need to change something.” “Yelling at the kids.” Yeah, you are definitely not alone. We kind of can hold it together all day at work, and then we get home, and it’s the people that we love the most who sometimes bear the brunt of it.

Yeah, these are great. Wonderful comments here, thank you. Avoiding calling clients, exhaustion. Yeah. So, get to know those warning signs. And then, when you see them double down on all the things we’ve been talking about, right? So, your boundary setting, reach out for support, and remember your purpose. All those things will help to counteract when you start to see those warning signs. Thank you.


Audience Question: I find myself turning off my emotions just to get through the day, but I pay for it at the end of the day. I tend to feel very mentally drained when I get home. Are there better ways to handle the stress? 

Katharine Manning: Yeah, such a good question. You’re definitely not alone on that. It’s something I’ve done as well. Because you think, “I got to be professional, and I really need to show up for this person right now. So, I’m just going to squash down my feelings because I can’t have that right now.” That kind of response is what leads to the exhaustion that you’re talking about. It also can take a toll on our health over time. So just a few ideas on that. And again, I’d love other thoughts from the chat. A few things that can help one is breathing through it and just acknowledging this is really hard, just acknowledging to yourself. “Wow! This is a really hard thing, and I’m just going to take a deep breath,” Okay? The key is deep, slow breath in through the nose, out through the mouth, and try to exhale longer than you inhale. Okay? So maybe inhale two, exhale four. Okay. Another thing is, to name your feelings. Just notice. “Gosh, this is a hard conversation. How am I feeling right now? I’m feeling angry, actually, I’m really angry that he had to go through all this. So, I’m feeling really sad.” Just naming your feelings helps you to process them a little bit more, helps you to feel more in control of it in the moment, and is kind of the opposite of that just squash it down and pretend I don’t have emotions. And then one more is engaging one of your five senses. This is just a mindfulness technique. So, notice the smell of coffee from the next room, or hear the sound of construction from outside of your window. Again, it just grounds you in the present moment, and as a way of kind of calming your nervous system, so I hope that that helps. And I should mention. I’m going to be doing a longer training with Justice Clearinghouse on all of these issues of resilience that will be available later this year. So, if you’re interested, please keep an eye out for that.

Host: Yep, absolutely. We’re excited to see that one come together.


Audience Question:  How do you set boundaries with difficult clients you have to work with? Sometimes we don’t have the option but to tolerate bad behavior in order to do our jobs. 

Katharine Manning: Yeah, I am sure you are dealing with some incredibly challenging clients sometimes. This is another area where I’d love advice from people in the chat. Let me tell you how I handle that. Boundary setting is something that applies even if you are not there to be a punching bag. That’s not fair to you, and it’s not appropriate. If your workplace is asking that of you, you should not be subject to name-calling, threats, and certainly not any kind of violence. So yeah, somebody is saying, reinforce, reinforce, reinforce. Absolutely so often when we are dealing with clients who are in that phase they are in, they are so elevated emotionally that they’re having trouble controlling their emotions. When that is happening, they’re not thinking very clearly.

And so, what we need to do is make sure that we are setting clear boundaries but doing it in a way that they can hear us. So, I’ll just do this very quickly. So, imagine I’m working with a client, and I’m trying to get information, and like I can’t get a word in edgewise. They’re just like going around and around. They’re saying the same thing. They’re getting faster and louder as they’re talking. I think of that as that as somebody who is caught in a whirlpool. They’re just kind of caught in a whirlpool of their emotions. They need to be yanked out. So, what I do for that is, I just lean back usually when somebody’s talking, I’m nodding. I’m encouraging them to go on, but if they’re in a whirlpool. I kind of lean back and I just give myself a second to breathe and calm myself, and then I then I very quietly but firmly say their name. So, I lean back, and then, “John.” As you hear, it’s calm. I’m not shouting over them. I’m just trying to get their attention. And usually, they’re like, “What? Oh?” You know, they’ve kind of forgotten I’m there. And then I’m in control of the conversation again, and I can say, thank you for sharing that. There’s a little bit more we need to cover, and you can kind of go on from there. If, instead, what they’re doing is threatening to you, they’re calling you names or something like that, then it’s similar, but with a short instruction, and really the shorter the better, like 3 words or less, if you can swing it. So, you’re calming yourself, calming yourself, “John no name calling.” So, you’re just trying to give them. This is the boundary, right? And then you can say we need to end this now if they’re not able to recognize that boundary. Again, you’re not there to be a punching bag. But sometimes they just need to hear that, because it can be difficult when people are in such an elevated state. One person is saying, “I like to use the phrase, your feelings are valid, but the behavior is not, and I do not allow my children/strangers/coworkers to talk to me this way, and I will not allow it in this working relationship.” Beautiful, clarity! I love it alright. I think we’re probably out of time there.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Lifelong Resilience: Building a Sustainable Career in Criminal Justice. 


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