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 front door she always knew how I would feel when she walked out.
If my girlfriend walked in happy, I would be happy. If she walked in miserable, I would be miserable as well, despite how happy I may have been with my own life only minutes before.
Without realizing I was taking on my best friends 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 and this particular habit was something that I had to work on.
It wasn’t an overnight transformation.
Obviously some problems are more heartbreaking and scary 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.
Here are my personal tips for supporting people without taking on their moods and emotions.
Empathy is a wonderful thing. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it. Empathy helps you understand what people are going through and helps you to be supportive and compassionate.
The good news is you can still be empathetic, supportive and caring without taking on someone else’s moods and problems.
Protect your own happiness
You have to cherish your own happiness. Sometimes you need to protect it fiercely.
No matter what is happening in the world or in someone else’s life you have a right to your own happiness. You have the right to your own feelings, emotions and particularly joys.
Changing your mood won’t help the other person
When my friend walked in 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 cannot control. You can’t control other people’s partners, families or bosses. You can’t control the actions of other people.
You can only be responsible for your own feelings and actions.
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 stuff that is really important.
Don’t lose sleep over crap that doesn’t matter anyway.
This is your life
Of course you want to be there for the important people in your life. It’s part of being human.
Yet this is your life not someone else’s. They need to walk their own path. Find their own truth.
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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