Don't Catch a Bad Mood
Like the common cold, human emotions are highly contagious.
"It's easy to get swept up in somebody else's emotions," says James Page, M.D., a psychiatrist in Greenville, SC. "When that happens, you probably need to take a step back and make a separation between your feelings and those of the other person."
According to Dr. Page, one of the best ways to respond to other people's emotions is to "reflect their mood back to them."
"I think it can be quite helpful to the other person to say something like: 'You sound like you're in a really bad mood. What's that all about?'"
Dr. Page also recommends:
Divert your attention. Are you feeling susceptible to someone else's strong emotion? Try focusing on something else. Get to work on an important project or take a brisk walk.
Accept limits. Recognize that you can't solve everyone else's problems. "Let the other person do some healthy venting, and then find their own solution."
Draw boundaries. When your feelings seem confused, stop and ask: How much of what's going on here is really about me? A healthy separation will prevent emotional overload.