You’ve probably met this person before. You know the type who just can’t stop talking about themselves?
Yeah. You’d probably find that they all seem to share this same trait – an absence of or low self awareness around how people actually perceive them.
Story time. I had this colleague. We got along, I liked her – at first. We had nice conversations and I felt like I had found a kindred spirit in the awful place that we were working in. But soon, it became really obvious that she was an emotional dumper.
The signs were all there:
- She loved to ramble and would send me multiple texts (I’m talking 20, 30, 40+ texts at one go) just verbal diarrhoea-ing about a topic – any topic – she had in mind.
- It didn’t even matter whether I was interested in the topic. She would ramble about things like, her journey to the supermarket to purchase a particular ingredient, her thoughts/feelings about the bus trip, the sights and sounds at the place, what the queue was like etc. If she was truly a friend and had taken the time to get to know me as a person, she’d know that I’m very disinterested in the minutiae of people’s lives. So rambling to me about stuff like that is one of the few ways to lose my interest…
- She never was really interested in whatever I had to say. She would say things like “I understand” but then would always brush aside whatever I say. The worst of all was – she would police my thoughts, reactions and behaviour. Whenever I was frustrated with something, she’d say things like “Just pray.” (she’s religious) or stuff like “Don’t do things with resentment or anger”. I not only strongly disliked being policed, but I always felt like my emotions were invalidated talking to her. And that she wasn’t even listening to me. The hypocrisy was also strong. She could get angry and rant at me, but I couldn’t express my frustrations?
- My interactions with her made me really angry always, for a reason I could never pinpoint, until it dawned on me that I was talking to a dumper and felt resentful that she was taking advantage of my kindness and friendship. It was a one-way traffic friendship with me feeling like a dustbin/boyfriend/diary.
Why an emotional dumper upsets you
When you are with an emotional dumper, resentment, annoyance, anger and that feeling that something is off but you can’t quite put your finger on what, tend to characterise your emotions that come up when you are interacting with them.
The reasons why you feel this way is because these friendships are characterised by selfishness and do not take into account your:
They don’t seem aware that standing there listening to them ramble about their trip to the bakery with Aunt Lucy or reading 50-something text messages actually takes up your time. It’s like they either don’t think about it, don’t care or don’t think it is important.
When someone is emotionally dumping on you, they are usually not dumping positive situations or feelings onto you. The stuff that they tell you about tends to involve some sort of negative situation, or it’s a negative rant about someone. So effectively, they are also passing on their negative emotions to you.
Many of us may not be aware of this, but interactions involve energy exchanges.
When an energy exchange is negative (meaning someone is offloading a lot of negative, draggy rants onto you) and you are just listening and engaging, the exchange is unequal. This is how you end up feeling drained, exhausted, and moody when you are spending too much time around people who are offloading their stuff onto you.
Personally, I find neutral ramblings (like spending ages telling me in minute detail about your trip to the bakery) to be very tedious to listen to as well. I’m generally not someone who likes to listen to the ins and outs of someone’s day-to-day, such conversations are not interesting to me and it tends to weigh down on my emotions.
If you are anything like me and find yourself getting dragged into conversations like that and feeling down after that – this is the reason why.
Venting vs Emotional Dumping
I’d just like to point out that, there is a very distinct difference between venting to someone and emotional dumping. There is a difference, as stated in this article:
Venting is verbally expressing thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. This involves two people: the processor and the listener. The magic of healthy venting occurs when the vent is heard by another person.
Other related characteristics of venting:
open to feedback and another’s perspective.
accepting of personal responsibility and integrity.
aware of the emotional states of both the listener and the speaker.
Venting is a healthy form of dealing with events. When a friend vents to you, there is an interaction, an engagement between you (the listener) and the venter (your friend). As someone venting, you are always aware of how you are coming across and you never let it take over the conversation. You may ask for advice or just a listening ear and then move on to other topics.
Whereas emotional dumping isn’t healthy:
Emotional dumping is a toxic form of venting. When you emotionally dump you are unaware of both your own emotional state and the state of the listener.
Some other related characteristics of emotional dumping:
inconsiderate of another’s time, energy, or capacity.
ruminating on a specific triggering event rather than expressing underlying feelings
resistant to feedback or another’s perspective
a cyclical return to the same problem over and over
Emotional dumping is selfish as it’s very one way traffic – like lobing a grenade over the wall and then dusting yourself off and disappearing, whilst your friend has to deal with the grenade and the after affects. Dumping also shows a lack of awareness of the impact of your words on others.
Well, how did you get yourself into this then?
Thin boundaries and people pleasing
Many times when we find ourselves in situations where we feel resentful and upset, it is usually because we have set up a precedence that involves not speaking up about things that you are uncomfortable with or voicing out your needs.
This creates a dynamic between the both of you which lends itself to being emotionally dumped on, because the other person could possibly be thinking – since you’ve not said anything about not wanting to hear any of their stuff – then that means you are okay with it!
When we aren’t speaking up about our needs, then we aren’t being true to ourselves. We are shelving our needs in order to keep the status quo or keep the other person happy. This is done at the expense of your own happiness.
When we people please, we put another person’s feelings and needs ahead of ours. This leads to resentment when you are kinda hoping they will read your mind and magically start making amends. But people usually don’t, so your unhappiness builds and when it explodes, it can be a huge surprise for the other party.
If you’ve been told that you are a good listener, you probably are someone that people feel very comfortable telling their deepest, darkest secrets to. You probably come across like you are engaged in whatever they are saying and you aren’t judgmental.
These are good qualities of course, but it becomes energy-draining when people are constantly coming to you to offload their problems. And it becomes even more energy-draining if you aren’t setting boundaries for yourself.
Getting yourself out of this
There are a few ways to ensure that you stick to their boundaries whilst maintaining your friendship with this person (if you want to):
Erect strong personal boundaries and keep to them!
Boundaries are very clear demarcations of what we are comfortable with (or not). This usually involves a process of understanding your values, your dealbreakers and knowing what you want. Boundaries not only involve knowing what you want, but you have to put them into action too.
So, when you feel that you only have the emotional bandwidth to engage in conversation for 15 minutes, politely excuse yourself from the conversation if it looks like your rambly friend is about to start on another ramble.
Or if you’ve figured that rambly people have no place in your life, then limit the interaction with them. Keep conversations light and friendly without allowing the space for anyone to continue aimlessly on in a conversation.
Once you’ve decided on limiting conversation, stick to it! Don’t get wrapped up in interactions which go beyond your 15 minute limit and tell yourself “It’s just for 5 minutes more!”, then grin and bear it and end up resenting the other person for taking up your time.
They can’t take up your time if you don’t allow them to!
Many times, sadly, emotional dumpers have no idea they are dumping on someone. From their perspective, they are probably excited about what they’ve experienced and would like to share it with someone. But in their over-excitement (combined with a possible lower self-awareness), they do not sense that the person they are speaking to is not comfortable.
So gently let them know that you find the conversations overwhelming, and would it be possible to keep it shorter. I had to let my friend know that I found it really overwhelming to see 50+ texts from her almost everyday and that it gave me no motivation to reply.
Only then did she realise she might have gone overboard and started to cut back on them. But the rambling about her life continued, so I had to be firm with my boundaries and put a stop to any conversation that overran.
Question to ask yourself – What purpose does this friendship serve for you? Are you happy in this friendship? Does it meet your values?
Friendships characterized by emotional dumping tend to have one side suppressing their needs and playing a role and tend to be one-sided, with one side in the driving seat, getting all their needs met, with the other side being more submissive and passive and tending to be the “giver”, the more accommodating one. And more often than not, the latter is not getting their needs met.
If you are the latter, ask yourself, why are you in a one-sided friendship with someone who may not care as much about you as you do them? Friendships aren’t transactional and shouldn’t be a tit-for-tat, but there should also be a general mutual exchange of respect, love and support. Give and take. It shouldn’t just all be give or all take.
Take a look at your friendships in your life. Are they characterised by one-sidedness or are they aligned with your values?