Before you vent out your emotions or concerns to your loved ones, it is important to reflect on certain aspects so as to ensure a respectful and understanding dialogue.
Understanding how to approach conversations with care is important for fostering strong and empathetic relationships, where both sides feel valued and supported. By considering aspects of emotional consent and respecting close friends’ boundaries and capacities, we contribute to building strong and empathetic relationships.
Happiest Health shares five important things to reflect on before offloading your emotions on/to friends, thus ensuring a respectful and empathetic exchange.
Respect the others’ limits
Everyone has personal, emotional and mental boundaries. Sometimes, even our closest friend may not be in the right space to absorb or provide support in our emotional outpouring. “Recognising and respecting this boundary is pivotal for the longevity and health of a friendship. When we neglect these boundaries, we risk overwhelming or even alienating our friends,” says Dr Mahima Sahi, chief psychologist at heyy, a Singapore-based mental health care app.
Things to keep in mind
- Before opening up or venting out, simply ask if now is a good time.
- Look out for non-verbal cues; they often reveal if someone is comfortable. If they seem distracted or distressed, it is best to postpone your act.
Reciprocal support from vetting out
Building a balanced relationship where you both feel comfortable sharing emotions is important as emotional support can be a two-way street. Jaipur-based psychologist Mehal Sharma says, “Make sure your friendship is not solely based on vetting out to them, but that they can also confide in you.”
According to Sahi, just as you seek comfort and understanding from your friends, they, too, could expect the same from you. Reciprocal support strengthens the bond and maintains balance in the relationship. “Without it, the relationship could become one-sided, leading to potential resentment or fatigue.”
- Initiate a ‘turn-taking’ system: After you share, allow them to voice their feelings.
- Actively participate in their stories, asking questions and showing genuine interest.
Timing and context matter
It is important to choose an appropriate time and setting to vent out or confide your concerns and feelings in your close ones. “Avoid offloading when they are in a rush or in a public place,” says Sharma. Set the scene for a thoughtful and uninterrupted conversation, ensuring they can give you their full attention.
- Allot a specific time for deep or long conversations.
- Evaluate the physical setting. Ensure that the place either of you may be is suitable for a heart-to-heart talk, free from crowd, noise or distractions.
Use trigger warnings
According to Sahi unexpectedly sharing traumatic experiences can deeply affect the listener, sometimes rekindling their own traumas. It is essential to give a heads-up or trigger warnings about the nature of what you are about to share.
- Begin with “I’m about to discuss something heavy, are you okay with that?”
- Be aware of their comfort level and adjust your sharing accordingly. Offer them an ‘exit route’: let them know it is okay if they prefer not to engage in certain topics.
Consent and communication
Seek the consent of your confidant/e before you speak out. Ask if they are available to listen and express what you need from the conversation. For example, it is important to ask questions like ‘Would you be available to listen to my emotions and thoughts right now, and could you let me know if that works for you? I am seeking a supportive space to share’.
“Clear communication ensures both parties are on the same page regarding the purpose and expectations of the discussion,” says Sharma.
Additionally, Sahi says, “Not everyone may be equipped or in the right frame of mind to handle emotional disclosures. Clear communication sets the right expectations and ensures mutual understanding.”
Explicitly ask if they are comfortable listening before you delve deep. Keep ascertaining their comfort levels. Adapt your sharing to their feedback. If they are hesitant, appreciate their honesty and consider expressing yourself to someone else.
Approaching confidential conversations with care and respect is important for nurturing meaningful relationships. Before you vent out your emotions with friends, considering their limitations, be ready for mutual support, and give priority to consent and clear communication.
These factors build understanding and empathy, and ensure a constructive and fair exchange. When we follow these principles, we help make our connections strong and caring. Better and mindful communication with respect helps our friendships grow.