If you're a naturally empathetic person, you probably find yourself in-tune with the emotions of others. Perhaps more often than you'd like.
Even if you aren't, you'll have found yourself in a situation where you would have liked to improve somebody's mood, but may not have known how to.
A reader, Knight, commented in the article on emotional contagion about how a long-time mentor/motivator had seemed down on a recent occasion:
“A great female friend of mine who is usually a great motivator for me was down today - something I haven't seen since we were in year 9 - and it really threw me off.”
He wanted to know how he could shift her emotions:
“I still felt the need to try and cheer her up somewhat... could you perhaps show us all how to shift emotions?I do my best to stay away from downers these days but I realise that some important people in my life are going to feel a bit down some times. It would be great to get them up on par with our happiness again!”
This is a common sentiment when met with the advice that you should associate less with people who are negative or who suck energy from you, a la the psychic vampire; that you have important people in your life that you want to be there for.
I relate because I have that feeling, too.
But before trying to improve somebody's mood you need to first go over to Chase's two-parter on emotional contagion, particularly the one on psychic vampirism... as before wanting to lend a helping hand with this person's state you'll need to identify that they're just in a bad mood / temporary state, and that they aren't a psychic vampire.
Those two articles, again, are here:
- Emotional Contagion in Seduction and Socializing
Yourself from Psychic Vampires (and Not Turning, Either)
The person in Knight's scenario is clearly not an emotional vampire though, because she's described as a motivator and somebody who hadn't been observed having a down day for some length of years.
Now what to do if you're in this position?
If you have somebody who isn't an emotion drainer, somebody who is generally able to manage herself, but is having a down day or down period. How do you motivate her to lift her spirits?
Well, firstly you need to identify that your own mental state is one that befits an individual who is able to rescue somebody's mood.
You're "ready" to take on lifting others' spirits and giving them an
infusion of some of your own emotional energy if:
You're generally of positive mental sentiment
You feel strong in the convictions that allow for your positive mental attitude
You feel strong enough to have those positive convictions tested by negative ones that may be offered to you by the person who is in the poor mood
You aren't already drained from vampiric interactions/people
From this position you stand in great stead to be able to help out somebody who may have let life get on top of them, if only momentarily.
If You Aren't in a Position to Lift Spirits
Essentially, this is when you're more susceptible to the negative individual's emotions, but perhaps most importantly you're more susceptible to his or her ideas.
Ideas are much longer-lasting than dissociated emotion in their ability to get you down.
Ideas, generally speaking, will have an emotional connotation and, thus, if you're laden with ideas like those a negative person will give you - e.g. “The world is horrible and everything is useless” - these ideas have a much longer-run ability to make you feel bad than a one time emotional transference.
Even if you're coming from a strong position, if you allow these thoughts to enter into your mind too often, for example, by becoming the conduit for a psychic vampire's negative diatribes, or by trying to help every negative person you meet, then you can be whittled away to the point where your ideas endowed with positive emotion (e.g. “I'm the master of my ship and the world will yield me what I put into it”) become tainted by the negative ones that are constantly reinforced by your interactions with the psychic vampire or negative people... whatever those ideas may be.
Taking on Too Much Too Soon
As you become less certain of your own convictions, you'll find yourself becoming more impressionable, resulting in an even stronger predilection towards soaking up the negative energy of the psychic vampire or slew of negative people you're interacting with.
So, “helping” the psychic vampire or every negative person you meet can leave you in a position where you're unable to help people who really warrant it... and even unable to help yourself.
That is why it is so important to identify psychic vampires and avoid trying to help them, but also to not stretch yourself too thin trying to help every person that comes along that you think might need help.
That is, unless you think you can deal with it and are willing to suffer through a psychic beating as a learning experience if you're wrong.
Don't get me wrong, helping people can be one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. To see somebody prosper on an idea you've given them can be truly inspiring.
Just be careful whom you choose to share your positive message with, as if you surround yourself with people who constantly seek you out to vent their negative sentiments, then you'll be brought more and more towards the negative ways of thinking that become all around you.
One more point on this: it is those whose opinion we value highest that have the ability to affect our ideas the most.
That means that helping somebody who has little power to evoke emotion in you or effectively challenge your ideas is sometimes relatively easy, and thus one can possibly help this person without risking one's own mental fortitude.
It is also another reason to avoid psychic vampires like the plague, as those are the people that can get close to you and thus shake your worldview, if you let them.
Main thing is, before you try to help people, make sure you are ready to.
Okay, now let's get onto helping somebody who is in a funk, like Knight's mentor who had a down day.
Bearing in mind that a person you hold in high esteem has a stronger ability to effect your ideas and emotions, it's also the case on the other side of the interaction: those who hold you in high esteem are more strongly affected by your ideas and emotions.
It's of importance that the person you want to help respects you, as if he doesn't value your opinion, then he's not as open to being uplifted by you.
You shouldn't really be wanting to help people who don't respect you anyway.
Essentially, it comes down to understanding and tweaking the process Chase set out in his emotional transference piece on empowering, then emoting.
A person who is in a funk will be in a negative state of mind and needs this negativity purged before one can supplant the negativity with positivity.
How do we do this?
We need to let the person vent the bad emotion first. This is best done by saying something like this, “Hey, I noticed that you don't seem yourself today, what's up?”
This should be said with a tone of attentiveness and genuine interest. You should engage her directly and look for a response after the question.
This level of scrutiny can make people uncomfortable, as it's designed to get past the mask that they may have been trying to show people; it'll draw the feeling to the surface.
At the same time, people will often appreciate that you've noticed that they're not 100%; it's uncommon for them to be addressed in such a direct and considerate manner.
Though they may not want to open up at first prompt, you should press the issue with a follow-up query - sometimes that's all it'll take to get someone to open up to you.
Use your intuition, but if she doesn't want to share with you past a few pushes it generally means that she's not comfortable opening up and thus wouldn't have been open to being influenced by your suggestions in that way anyway. Some people just don't like sharing, but it still matters to them that you've noticed.
If that happens, then let it go and move forward with a positive attitude while steering the conversation into lighter topics. In this way you can hope to catch friends and others onto the positive emotions you're sending out, though it's harder when they're less inclined to come into the empowered headspace required for positive emotional transference.
If people do feel like opening up, then listen attentively to what they have to say. While paying attention, question them in a way that pushes out as much of what is bothering them as possible - like so:
You: What's up with you today?
Friend: Nothing... I'm just tired.
You: No, clearly, something's the matter. What is it?
Friend: Well... I've just been having some problems at work.
You: Like with your boss or co-workers or a specific assignment or what?
Friend: It's just I've got this new boss, and she's a really nice person, but just... what she asks me to do...
Friend: She asks me to do all these things that are way below my position and pay level. We had some layoffs recently, and they reorganized our team, and that's how I ended up with this boss. But now I'm not doing any of the work I used to do, and instead I'm doing this really low level stuff.
You: So you're not being challenged.
Friend: Not at all.
You: And you're afraid of becoming redundant there.
After the negative emotion has been somewhat purged the person will be more easily moved into the empowerment stage of emotional transference; however, don't expect all the negative emotion to expel immediately. It can sometimes take a little time.
Moving into Positivity
You can facilitate the individual's move into a positive emotion after that by empowering her with words, too.
This means suggesting a positive course of action that she may pursue to overcome her problem. Language and vibe are important here.
Here are some pointers on doing that with those whose spirits you want to lift:
Show that you understand their situation by paraphrasing the crux of their issue
Talking in 'I's' tends to demoralise or alienate people in vulnerable mind-frames. So refrain from trying to say 'I did this or I did that to overcome a similar problem'
Rather, speak to the individual in relation to their plight by using 'you' instead of 'I'
Use the language of suggestion rather than pontificating by using phrases like 'I think you could do x, y or z' rather than saying 'you should do x, y or z'
Deliver the advice with outcome independence so that you don't interfere by injecting negative emotional input should the outcome not go your way
Don't belittle the person's problems but deliver the advice in a relatively light manner so as to begin lifting the person towards a better emotional state
Follow the advice by listening to their response and then moving the conversation towards more light-hearted topics and use emotional transference to pass your positivity onto them
Continuing our example from above:
You: So you're not being challenged.
Friend: Not at all.
You: And you're afraid of becoming redundant there.
You: Well, have you talked to her about it?
Friend: No... I just kept hoping we'd finish this work and get back to more important stuff.
You: But you're not.
You: Well, maybe it's time to talk to your boss. You said she's a new boss for you, right?
You: So it's pretty safe to assume she probably has no idea what kind of work you usually do, or what kind of work you're capable of.
Friend: That's true.
You: Maybe it's time to sit down with her and say you're really getting comfortable with her as a boss, but you've noticed that some of the work you've been doing has been a bit below your ability, and you can be even more useful to her and do a lot more for her, and then show her some of the examples of the kind of work you used to do with your old boss.
Friend: That's a good point.
You: Do you think that might solve your situation?
Friend: Yeah, I think it might.
You: Okay, if you think that'll work, let's set a day for you to do that. Do you think you can talk to your boss tomorrow while you still have momentum and haven't overthought it or anything?
Friend: Um... yeah, I can do that!
You: Excellent. I'd recommend you do that first thing in the morning as soon as you see her... that'll make it as less weird as possible.
Obviously the advice you offer is going to differ depending on the information divulged.
From here you should let people take in and respond to your suggestion. If you've come at things from the right angle you will have opened them up and hopefully they'll be open to your suggestion.
Even if they aren't, all is not lost. They can still take something from your attention and the purge of their negative emotion, which can often be the more important things for empowerment. Don't feel personally aggrieved if they don't take a shining to your advice; this isn't about you. And, deliver it with outcome independence.
Regardless of whether they warm to your suggestion, you should still move forward with positive emotions.
After talking about heavy stuff, some
people have a habit of lingering
in it. When that happens people, can get guilty about their
vulnerability and regret their decision to open up, or their thoughts
can turn in another negative direction etc.; the conversation at some
point gets spell broken and goes weird.
So, instead of dwelling in the deeper part of the conversation, it's important that you move the conversation into lighter waters relatively quickly.
An example of a segue after listening to their response to your suggestion would be:
You: Cool... problem solved, right?
Friend: I think so! You're awesome!
You: I know. Let's go get some ice cream.
You: Hey, so did you hear about what James did on the weekend... it was hilarious...
This change of pace may seem a little crass, but if they've purged and you've come with the right vibe the change of pace will usually be welcomed and hopefully embraced, as this is where you hope to have the person catch on to your positivity through emotional transference.
The best way to do this is to keep stacking the light conversation while feeling the emotions you want to transfer to the person yourself.
Your positive words combined with your positive mood should hopefully elevate her into better spirits.
Some words on this: sometimes it just doesn't work. Some people get more entrenched in bad moods than others, and some people will convey problems that are too heavy to be substantially shifted with a single pep-talk. It can be a really hard thing to do effectively from time to time.
So if you can't affect change in somebody else's mood, don't sweat it. It's not going to help you or them and they won't hate you for trying. On the contrary; they'll respect you for it, and it'll probably help in one way, shape or form even if you don't get to see it.
Here's a wrap-up:
Feeling the need to help people is a strong human urge, but one must try to identify people who are bad emotional investments, such as those who are psychic vampires, before attempting to help them
You must be in a positive mental condition before attempting to help others, lest their negativity rub off on you too strongly
When you are in a poor mental state you become much more susceptible to the negative ideas, emotions, and other influences of people you interact with
If you are in a positive mental state, then begin by drawing the individual's problems to the surface by making insightful and direct observations about his well-being
Allow the individual to purge himself of negative emotion by explaining what his problems are. Facilitate this process by letting him vent all that he needs to
Once he's purged, offer him a positive suggestion on how to move forward
Following that, segue quickly into another topic with a positive attitude, focusing on emotional transference by feeling good yourself and following Chase's guide on emotional contagion
If the person doesn't open up after the original prompting, still try to push the conversation to a positive place, as some people simply don't feel comfortable opening up, though changing this person's mood is usually harder
If the person isn't open to your suggestions or his spirits aren't elevated after interacting with you, don't sweat it, attach outcome independence to the process and realise that you can't help
Follow these steps, and you can brighten the moods and lift the spirits of those around you suffering through temporary bad moods or difficult scenarios - and all without becoming overly susceptible to being dragged down into negativity along with them.
'Til next time, pals.