The lesson these days many of my clients are dealing with, is how to keep from being affected by the emotions of those around them. They’re finding that setting boundaries is even more important than ever. Right now there are quite a few chaotic events happening, along with the emotional responses of people to them. It’s easy to get sucked into feeling the same emotions when you’re surrounded by them, especially if the people around you are constantly venting about them. This is where setting boundaries can help. Sometimes, just being around someone who is constantly complaining can cause us to feel negative about our lives. It’s contagious. Setting boundaries for yourself in this instance is important to your own well-being.
Setting Boundaries – You Can Do It
If you decide you want to be supportive, but in a healthy way where you aren’t brought down by another person’s complaints or issues, the first place to start is in identifying what your boundaries are. One place to start is by deciding how much time and energy you’re willing to devote to another person’s challenges. Another thing to consider, is whether or not this person is only sharing the negative aspects of their life, or do they also share the good times? Some people can get into the habit of only complaining. They seem to think the only way they’re able to get attention is by only telling you about their struggles. This isn’t a balanced relationship and ends up just wearing you down if that’s all you receive from your interactions. Healthy relationships are composed of both the good times and the bad.
If you find yourself constantly walking away from an exchange with someone, feeling drained or exhausted, that’s a pretty good indication that you’re giving too much to the relationship.
Recognize Your Value – All of Your Relationships Need to Be Balanced
It’s time to recognize that you’re important and need to do what takes care of you as well. We can’t weaken ourselves in order to be a support to another person. If you do, in the end, you diminish what you’re able to share with the rest of the world or with others in your life. If you spend your time drained because of another person’s need to vent or complain, this isn’t helping anyone. If someone is constantly in the dumps, by getting it all over you, they aren’t learning to move out of this way of existing. When you refuse to participate in a relationship, whether friends, family, or your significant other, you give the other person the opportunity to grow.
How to Set Clear Boundaries
So how do you set clear boundaries when you want to be supportive of others? How do you hold your boundaries when someone you care about is the one complaining? The idea is to hold compassion for others, while maintaining your own boundaries. In order to be the most supportive to others, you actually need to allow them to go through their particular challenges in order for them to grow. You can feel compassion for them and offer nurturing support. When you’re able to stay grounded and centered through it all, it gives others a place to connect to. But the important part is to recognize what you need in order to keep the relationship healthy and balanced. If you get sucked in emotionally, you lose the ability to give healthy support – support where the other person can learn what they need to do in order to heal.
Once you’ve identified what it is you need, it’s time to verbalize them to others. This can be the tricky part, but once done, you’ll be surprised at what a relief it can be. You might have to practice doing this if, in the past, you haven’t spoken up for what you need. I’ve found that the best way to express your needs, is to do it as nicely as possible. Let the other person know you’re doing it as a way to take care of your needs so you’re better able to be supportive of them. In an equal and caring relationship, people want what’s best for the other person as well as themselves.
Some people aren’t going to like it. If they’re used to being able to spout misery and complaints all over the people around them, well, you’re most likely not going to get a good response from them. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you learn to advocate for yourself. Once you start doing this on a regular basis, in a caring way, you’ll find people are less likely to even start crossing your boundaries. You’ll also notice how more grounded and emotionally responsible people come into your life.
Sometimes Another Person Just Needs to Vent
To be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be there for our friends or family, or to sit and let another person vent occasionally. But if it’s a constant thing, or the other person isn’t taking steps to rectify the situation they’re complaining about, they aren’t interested in getting better. They just want company in their misery. You really don’t help someone by being a participant in that behavior.