Taking On Other People’s Emotions


Every office has one, don’t they? One person who lets anyone and everyone knows exactly how they’re feeling. Sometimes, like in my office, there is more than one person who isn’t shy about letting their emotions be heard.

Some people are passive. They like to do the old exaggerated sigh. Deep breath in, super long, overly loud breath out. Maybe even more than one exaggerated sigh is let loose. Or perhaps they’ll throw in an “Unbelievable” for good measure to see if anyone will ask what’s wrong. Sometimes they share what’s wrong. Other times they say something like, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Then continue to draw attention to themselves by muttering things under their breath and sighing loudly.

Other people have no problem sharing what’s wrong. Some thrive on the drama, whether it’s theirs or other people’s. They’ll hop from desk to desk wasting their office mate’s time and the company’s money.

It can be tough not to engage ourselves with these folks. Especially if that co-worker is someone we’re close to. We want them to know we’re there for them and we support them, but we also don’t want to be at work wasting time, gossiping, backstabbing, or even taking on their emotions.

What happens when it’s your loved ones that are bringing that kind of energy into our homes? How do we navigate that balance between being supportive and understanding without taking on their emotions?


There was a time when I thought I shouldn’t be happy if my husband wasn’t. The more the addiction wormed its way into our home, the more I felt I should mirror his emotions. Almost like I didn’t deserve to be happy.

If something significant happened at work and I wanted to come home and share that with him but found out he had a crappy day, it took the wind right out of my sails. I went into problem-solving mode. He didn’t need to ask for my help. I jumped right in with both feet and began to micromanage his world. Forget about my celebration or even my self-care; let ’s get busy taking care of him!

Why is that? Because living with an active addict had changed me. I needed to feel like I was in control of something when it came to him, and this was my way of doing it by helping. Hang on, let me do this right, “helping” him.

How do we stop taking on other people’s problems and emotions?

Emotional boundaries. You may remember that talk I shared by Tom B. from AA on emotional sobriety. In part, he asks these questions, and it’s all about emotional boundaries (see how it all ties together? ):

Do you need the approval of others to feel good about yourself?

Do you put other’s wellbeing before your own?

Do you care more for others before you care for yourself?

Do you mirror the moods of those around you?

Do you feel like a loser even though you KNOW you’re a good person?

Do you often put yourself down but lift others up?

Do you reject compliments?

Do you get caught up in the “drama” and “problems” of those around you?

Are you overly sensitive to criticism?

If you answered yes to many of those questions, you might want to work on firming up those emotional boundaries. How can you do that? Learning phrases like, “I’d appreciate if you didn’t” or “I’d rather not” can be very helpful. Yes, it can be difficult at first but saying, “No” can be a real game-changer.

It can also help to remind yourself that you are NOT to blame for how other people are feeling. You are responsible for your emotions, actions, and reactions. That’s it.

Do you have an office gossip? Do you take on other people’s emotions?

I talk more about this at my podcast Elsie’s Corner. Hope to see you there!

Scheduling Note: I won’t be here next week. See you the following week!