If someone is ranting and raving, throwing stuff about, yelling loudly, talking in an accusatory fashion, complaining loudly, or noisily expressing a great deal of rage- it can be just plain difficult to be around them. Emotionally sensitive people- the observers who have to bear witness to these scenarios frequently- may absorb the intense emotion like sponges.
If you are an emotional sponge who often soaks up negative emotional vibes from other people, you might want to try a mindful task. Simply step back and take notice of what is actually going on. When you are able to observe rather than react, options for responding will open up.
In truth, this is much harder than it seems. Especially if you have a tendency to fix, problem-solve, or take care of the situation while the person is yelling at you or treating you badly.
Gently stepping around the person- while allowing them to vent all their emotional energy- will help you avert yourself as a target. Here are some suggestions on how:
• Avoid urges to react “back”
• Notice urges to take care of the situation, fix the problem, or reassure the person
• Notice what you do to avoid confrontation or appease the person- and if you simply stopped doing this- what would happen. Notice if there is anything you would have to tolerate that would be hard for you.
• Consider the problematic relationships this person may have (given how they are acting). Consider if this is something that you really have control over.
• Try to figure out how you would describe this behavior and its consequences in a matter-of-fact and non-judgmental manner- and consider doing it when emotions aren’t as high
• Acknowledge openly what is- instead of pretending that something isn’t
• Quit blaming yourself
Conflicts offer us lots of opportunities to be effective, solve problems, and have difficult conversations. Emotions often energize us and get us moving. However, in some cases, emotions mobilize movement but don’t effectively help solve problems. Sometimes, letting others live with the consequences of behavior (as opposed to reacting and fixing everything) gives us a little more power and can be a lot less work.