Every once in a while we all feel like we just need to talk to someone about how we’re feeling. Talking to someone who is able to lend us an ear and be an empathetic listener can be a curative experience. However, when it comes to processing emotions with another person can be satisfying, it can also be very frustrating. But how do we know how the experience is gonna go? The difference comes down to whether you are venting your emotions in a healthy way or simply dumping them on the other person.
Emotional dumping is like barging into someone else’s space and spreading your emotions all over it. The dumper is unaware of their own emotional state, as well as the state of the person they’re dumping onto. This can cross emotional and mental boundaries for others and leave them feeling overwhelmed and confused. Emotional dumping does not involve the consent of the listener. It is not mindful of the listener's time, and it is not bound to stick to a topic.
Dumping usually occurs after a highly stressful situation, where the individual uses emotional dumping as a way of processing and coping with their emotions. This also means that they might be less receptive to receiving feedback, which makes the communication one-sided. Which makes it an unhealthy form of communication. Emotional dumping can also feel defensive, where the dumpee avoids taking responsibility for their actions, plays the victim, and is not always open to finding solutions.
Emotional venting, on the other hand, involves consent and participation from both the parties, the venter, and the listening. Venting is done in a specific time frame, where the individual who is processing the feelings has clarity on what the objective is, they are focused and is open to feedback and perspective put forward by the listener. When the listener engages in active listening, emotional venting can be a great tool to help process difficult emotions.
It might not be easy to identify when you’re the one doing emotional dumping, but some practices to keep in mind to end emotional dumping are:
Write down your feelings and emotions - this can help you organize your thoughts and emotions, and bring some clarity to the situation.
Take the other person’s perspective and feedback into consideration and see if that helps you move towards a solution.
When trying to vent, avoid bringing in multiple topics at once.
Use “I” statements. This is especially helpful when talking to
someone who is directly involved in the situation.
It is also important to set and reinforce boundaries when you feel that others are dumping their emotions on you, without your consent. Setting boundaries might be difficult and make you feel uncomfortable, especially with loved ones, but it does not mean that it isn't necessary.
Communicate that this is not a good time for you to engage in discussing their concerns, you can even give them an alternative time when you will be able to give them your full attention and concentration.
Set a time limit when you feel that someone might be starting to dump their feelings onto you.
Communicate that you only have a limited amount of time and need to get back to your priorities, but would listen to them once you have a little more time on your hands.
Talking to others about how you are feeling can be a therapeutic tool, but it is important to be mindful of others' emotional states and be open to their perspective as well. Emotional dumping can overtime strain your relationships, therefore it's important to practice healthy communication, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help when you feel it's necessary.