Imagine you are walking along in a great mood and someone; a friend, a loved one, or someone you just met walks up to you and starts unloading about how horrible of a day they’ve had, about how their boss is impossible, their spouse doesn’t understand them or their kids never listen…do you identify with their feelings and/or story and get sucked right into their energy and lose your perspective and outlook? How is your mood when they leave you? Is it as good or the same? If you were really sucked in, probably not. You are probably ready to unload on the next likely suspect that comes along ruining their good mood (because they let you) and passing the bad mood around like a basketball.
So how can you start changing this pattern? How can you care about what someone is saying and yet not get sucked in? Try imagining you in your good mood walking along in a park and someone walks up to you and starts complaining, explaining or just basically is stuck in their negativity. If you think of them wallowing in their mud – yes like a little pig, but don’t lose your empathy! – build a corral around them and stay on the outside. When you are thinking of climbing over the fence to join them, step back. Hold your space and stay out of their muck. You can still care, love and support someone without stepping into the muck with them.
Imagine how much better you’ll feel when they walk away if you only get a little mud splashed on you instead of jumping in with both feet! They will still feel heard and you can come away in your good mood you had when you started or maybe even better because you supported someone who needed it. It just takes a little awareness and practice.