Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How to Stop Other People's Emotions from Bringing You Down


Empathy is a terrific skill to have, but too much of it can leave you overwhelmed by others’ negative emotions. Here’s how to stop absorbing what others around you are feeling while still being an understanding fellow human being.

It’s in our nature to empathize with others. In The Age of Empathy, primatologist Frans de Waal explains that empathy is an instinctual behavior researchers have observed in social animals, from primates to mice. We’ve likely evolved our ability to empathize, de Waal says, due to parental instinct: Parents, whether human or mouse, need to be tuned into their offspring to both bond with them and understand when they’re distressed. (That’s why babies’ cries can be so agonizing for us and their giggles so infectious.) Empathy is what makes us sneeze or yawn when someone else does and unconsciously mimic others’ body language and facial expressions. Our brains are hardwired for it.

We don’t just catch others’ yawns, though. We catch their moods. That’s great when your friends’ happiness boosts yours, but exhausting when your boss’s anxiety, your co-worker’s grief, your partner’s stress, or even the Starbucks barista’s cranky demeanor infect you. Secondhand stress (or anger, etc.) can be just as subtle yet as dangerous as secondhand smoke. Harvard Business Review says:

    As the research has become more sophisticated, we see that the negativity we “catch” from others can also impact every single business and educational outcome we can track, and most recently has been shown to impact us down to a cellular level, shortening our lifespan. According to Before Happiness, companies like the Ritz Carlton and Oschner Health Systems, aware of the impacts of secondhand stress, have started instituting “no venting” zones for their employees when around customers or patients. A patient seeing a nurse seething with stress or complaint could catch the contagion as they evaluate the care they receive — not to mention the fact that positive mindset is continually associated with positive health outcomes, as outlined by Tom Rath in Wellbeing.

So what can we do about it, short of ditching society to go live in a hermit hut? As someone who considers herself a highly sensitive person (I’m as thin-skinned as they come), I’ve found it takes both clear boundaries and a mindful shift in perspective to protect myself from others’ emotions.

For the rest of the story:  http://lifehacker.com/how-to-stop-other-peoples-emotions-from-bringing-you-do-1740969184

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