Why do we discount people’s feelings – and what can we do about it?

Why do we discount people’s feelings – and what can we do about it?

Have you ever been told to:

  • “Calm down”
  • “Don’t worry”
  • “Relax”
  • “Don’t be so intense”
  • “Just let it go”

Rarely do these responses change the emotions or the actions that are intended. In fact, they usually result in making things worse. Most people are primed to be punished for being emotional at work, but it also happens in our personal relationships. Emotional invalidation can be hurtful. So how do we deal with it – authentically.

Let’s first understand why we attempt to quash, refute, or undermine emotions. There are potentially several reasons, but it mostly occurs when we aren’t comfortable with our own emotions or we feel responsible to “fix” the feelings of others in order to feel competent, safe, or secure when we are around a highly charged person. Usually people don’t want to cause the harm they are unintentionally invalidate another’s emotions.

So… what are some strategies for dealing with highly intense, emotional people in your life, and, if you are an intense person, what are some tactics for dealing with people who invalidate your emotions.

Dealing with emotional responses:

  1. Appreciate emotions. Value feelings. Without emotions you wouldn’t have the energy, passion, or creativity that are required for a healthy, thriving workplace or life.
  2. Put your oxygen mask on. If you find yourself in front of an upset person, take some deep breaths and remind yourself that you don’t have to fix this, that the emotions will, that being fully present is enough, and that you respect yourself enough to not tolerate disrespectful comments.
  3. Invite the other person to talk – with empathy. You can say nothing or say something like, “I want to listen right now.”
  4. Check if they are ready to move forward. Once you see a decrease in emotion, you can begin to move toward problem solving or simply appreciating the time you have spent holding the space for another

Dealing with emotional invalidation:

  1. Don’t take it personally. I know this is way easier said than done, but you have to realize that people who shut emotions down are doing so because of their own fears.
  2. Be sure you aren’t putting your feeling in the driver seat. If you emotions are taking over your actions, your performance, and your results, then there is legitimacy in wanting to have you shut them down.
  3. Have a conversation with the people who are impacted by your emotions – before you are activated – about respectful ground rules for handling highly emotionally charged situations.
  4. Don’t be disrespected. Don’t allow yourself to be diminished for who you are – under any circumstance. Stay true to yourself, appreciate the constructive emotions that surface in your relationships, and focus on expected results.