How to Support People Without Taking on Their Moods and Emotions

Back when I was working in Sydney, I had a work colleague point out something interesting to me. At the time my best friend worked in the same company. My co-worker commented that when my best friend walked in the door she always knew how I would feel when she walked out. She went on to explain that if my girlfriend walked into the room happy, I would be happy. If she walked in miserable, by the time she left I would be miserable as well, despite how happy I may have been only minutes before. At that stage of my life, I didn’t know how to support people, without taking on their moods and emotions. 

That day was a turning point for me.

To be honest, at first, I denied it. In my eyes, I was simply being empathetic, which is a quality I admire and respect in people. I felt like I was being supportive.

Yet the more I thought about it and paid careful attention to my behavior, I realized that my work colleague had a valid point. I had to learn how to support people without taking on their emotions and feeling like their problems were my problems as well. I had to learn how to support people in a more healthy way.

It wasn’t an overnight transformation. It was something I had to work hard on.

Obviously, some problems are more heartbreaking and overwhelming than others. If for example, a loved one tells you they’ve just found out they have cancer, naturally, you are going to be shocked and extremely upset. After hearing such horrific news your mood is going to be affected. That’s perfectly normal.

But everyday circumstances are a different matter.

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Here are my thoughts on supporting people without taking on their moods and emotions.

Understand it’s okay to be empathetic

Empathy is a wonderful thing. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it.

Empathy helps you to be supportive and compassionate.

One important thing to remember with empathy is that it’s not about how you would feel in the other person’s situation. To be truly empathetic, you need to consider how someone feels in their situation (taking into consideration their personality, life experiences, and feelings), not how you would feel in that situation. 

The good news is you can still be empathetic, supportive, and caring without taking on someone else’s moods and problems.

Related posts – 

Protect your happiness

You have to cherish your own happiness. You need to protect it fiercely.

No matter what is happening in the world or someone else’s life you have a right to your own happiness. You have the right to your own feelings, emotions, and particularly joys.

Related post – 20 Questions to Reflect on Your Joy and Happiness For the Year

Understand changing your mood won’t help the other person

When my friend walked into the room miserable, my becoming miserable didn’t help her in any way.

It didn’t fix or change her problems – no surprise there! If anything it just made the two of us miserable and more likely to think negatively about other situations.

Constantly being in a negative state of mind will make you more vulnerable to adopting a victim’s mentality.

Let go of what is out of your control

Make peace with what you can and can’t control. You can’t control other people’s partners, families, or bosses. You can’t control the thoughts or actions of other people.

You can only be responsible for your own feelings and actions.

I know this one can be hard to wrap your head around. It can be a lifelong practice of learning to let go of what you can’t control but the sooner you master this ability the more peaceful and content your life will become.

Excellent books by vulnerability expert Brene Brown on letting go and being vulnerable – 

Minimize worrying

Notice I didn’t write stop worrying. As a worrier myself, that would be just a tad hypocritical.

Instead, focus on minimizing how much you worry. More importantly, if you are going to worry – worry about the really important stuff.

Don’t lose sleep over crap that doesn’t matter anyway.

For an excellent book that can help you work out what’s important and what’s not, I highly recommend – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. (Just a heads up this book contains swearing so if that bothers you, this book might not be for you.)

How to support people

Of course, you want to be there for the important people in your life. You love them and want to support them when possible.

Being there for the people we love is part of being human. Being compassionate and supportive is one of the great parts of being human.

But this is your life, not someone else’s. Other people need to walk their own path. They need to find their way.

Support people and be there for them, but protect and cherish your own happiness and emotions. In the end, it will be a lot more beneficial to yourself as well as the other people in your life.

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Read Next – How to Live for Yourself and Not Just for Other People