Limit Your Baggage – Don’t Own Others’ Emotions
Being a consultant, entrepreneur and mom comes with enough pressure, without having to hold the emotional load of others. But it can take courage and persistence to set boundaries and not own others’ emotions.
Trust me, I know. For way too many years I carried these emotions.
It was only when the load became too heavy, threatening to bury me, did I realize it was time to make a change.
So what emotional load am I talking about? It can be the family member who makes judgements about your child’s behaviour (causing you to feel guilty or defensive), the boss who drops snide comments about you leaving for a medical appointment, or the friend who just can’t understand why you don’t want to take that salsa class with her (despite the fact you hate dancing). And more. Oh, so much more!
While I still get bombarded by the emotions of others, I’ve found tools over the years to limit the baggage I carry and protect my energy.
It really starts with figuring out your strengths, your triggers and your emotional threshold.
A few years ago, I had a life changing moment when my business coach casually said, of course that impacts you, you’re an empath. Wait, what?? Me?
She laughed at my confusion and said I was the poster child for an empath.
Turns out she was right.
After reading a few articles and watching some YouTube videos, my life starting making sense. All those times I was told I’m too sensitive, it’s in my head, that’s not what they meant and other disparaging comments, I was not wrong. It’s just that 98-99% of the population couldn’t feel what I felt.
With this realization, I started looking for tools to help me deflect others’ emotions. It also helped me understand that others weren’t being difficult, they just honestly didn’t see the world the same way I do.
Each of us is unique in how we absorb, understand and process emotions. Taking the time to figure out your style can be a huge gamechanger.
Years ago, I was certified as a personality trainer. I spent 5 days, delving into the various personalities.
The focus of the training wasn’t about just learning my own personality style (which is where most people fixate). Rather, it was about truly understanding the other personalities and how to interact with them.
In one assignment, I was paired with my opposite personality – an introvert thinker. Previously, this had been the hardest personality for me to work with. I had misunderstood their silence as meaning they had nothing to say. Which of course, resulted in me talking more, and them tuning me out.
After taking the time to understand their perspective, I realized I needed to adapt my communications style to meet their needs. This meant coming to meetings prepared, emailing questions or an agenda in advance, leaving space in the conversation for reflection and following up afterward to get further input.
While there are many tests you can take to understand your personality style, I encourage you to dig deeper. Sure, take the test and learn about you. But then, do some research into how you’re perceived by others and ways to connect with various personalities.
This will help you not only understand the other person, but also not misinterpret their silence as indifference or chattiness as empty banter.
Don’t Own It
There’s no avoiding emotions. They are a part of every human interaction.
But there’s a big difference between observing an emotion and owning it. While it’s easy to own the emotions of others, it takes time and practice to separate yourself from these emotions.
I recently had a situation where I was the brunt of someone’s emotions. As they verbally attacked me, I consciously put up my emotional boundaries, visualizing their words bouncing off an invisible shield.
Instead of engaging in a debate, I simply said – I’m sorry you feel that way and understand that’s your perspective. I have a different perspective.
I realized that now was not the time to get into a conversation as the other person was too upset and not open to listening. By not engaging, or absorbing their emotions, they quickly ran out of steam and the conversation ended.
My husband, who overheard the conversation, commented that he was impressed with my calmness and said if it was him, he would’ve gotten defensive.
Trust me, it was tempting. But by trying to understand their perspective and emotional state, I quickly realized they weren’t in a place to have a two-side conversation or hear another perspective.
I also recognized their emotions had little to do with me. Rather, I was the outlet for a tsunami of emotions related to life experiences that had likely been brewing for months. This recognition helped prevent me from absorbing and owning their emotions.
With so many people living with heightened emotions due to life in a pandemic, now is a good time to learn how to limit your baggage by not owning the emotions of others.
What are the emotions that cause you the most stress? Are there people in your life who trigger this stress? How can you protect yourself from owning their emotions?
I’m not saying we need to be robots, but rather give ourselves permission to limit our baggage. This starts with not carrying the emotions of others. Afterall, we all have enough weight to carry without adding to the load. At least I know I do.