If you’ve walked this earth long enough, you’ve probably spent time with people who seem to delight in shoveling emotional garbage on top of other people. They’ve probably done it to you and you are probably still a little sore about the whole mess. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, when someone dumps verbal or emotional garbage on you, no one comes out clean. Words have a funny power of sticking to us, even if we tell ourselves they are not true.
There is one way to come out ahead. When someone is shoveling their garbage on top of you, remember this: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE IT. You are not a garbage can. There is one key factor to healthy venting versus emotional dumping, and that is the willingness to take responsibility. Ask yourself, is this person willing to take responsibility for their situation?
If so, and you have the time and patience to spare, then you can be that helpful listening ear and maybe even be in a position to give advice. BUT, if they are not willing to take responsibility, then you are NOT required to take responsibility for their situation either. Gently but firmly set your boundaries and learn how to communicate them.
Is the emotional dumper one of your kids? That changes the situation. Often when children start dumping it’s an expression of another need. Are they tired? Are they hungry? Do they need someone to pay attention to them? Don’t address the crap – address the need. The more often you can address the need and not the drama, the better you are teaching them to also manage their own stress and problems.
For those people in your life who tend to always turn to you when they get into trouble, memorize the following statement: “I want to be there for you, but I’m unable to support you today in the way that you need.” You might even follow up with a better day and time when they’ve had a chance to cool down and you are in a better state of mind to help.
Apparently, I’m too good of a listener, which means I have attracted a handful of people who tend to use me as their sounding board for all sorts of things. Usually, it’s harmless, but there are always a few that I need to be really careful with. After an hour of listening, my emotional energy for the rest of the day is shot. My patience to deal with my own challenges and that of my household is cut short and I find myself getting really testy. Whenever possible, I’ll schedule anything that’s going to require lots of emotional energy to days where I have fewer things on my plate.