How To Handle Other People’s Bad Moods Like a Pro


Step 1: Treat difficult emotions like a puzzle, not a problem

第一步: 把困难的情绪当作一个谜题,而不是一个问题

Here’s a question I get asked a lot as a therapist:
How do you sit there and listen to people’s problems all day? Don’t you get depressed?
To be honest, not really.

你怎么能整天坐在那里听别人的问题? 你不会感到沮丧吗?

You might imagine that all the sadness, frustration, anxiety, and shame my clients tell me about would start to rub off on a guy after a while. But, if anything, I feel like I’m a little better at managing both my own emotions and other peoples’ because I get to practice all day long.


The ability to manage other people’s bad moods and difficult emotions well is an ability that can be practiced and strengthened.What follows are 5 specific skills I’ve learned that help me to effectively and respectfully handle other people’s difficult emotions.


1. Treat Strong Emotion as a Puzzle, Not a Problem

1. 把强烈的情绪当作一个谜题,而不是一个问题

But as I’m sure you’ve come to learn, giving advice to someone in the throes of a bad mood is typically unhelpful at best and often counterproductive.


Instead of viewing someone’s bad mood as a problem to be fixed, what if you shifted your perspective and saw it as a puzzle instead?


If only they knew how much they impacted other people, they’d never be like this.


When you shift from problem-thinking to puzzle-thinking, your mindset becomes driven by curiosity rather than morality, which is far more helpful in an emotionally-intense situation, both for you and the person across from you.


When someone you care about is in a bad mood, try to understand how and why they’re feeling the way they are rather than how it can be fixed.


2. Try Some Reverse Empathy

2. 尝试一些反向同理心

And while empathy is obviously an important skill to cultivate for all sorts of reasons, there’s a version of it that’s especially helpful for managing other people’s bad moods. I call it reverse empathy.


Reverse empathy: rather than putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, try to remember a time when you wore the same shoe.


In other words, try to recall a time when you struggled in a similar way and with a similar set of difficult emotions and mood.


Often, reverse empathy can be a more powerful way to appreciate someone else struggle because it’s based on your own experiences rather than hypothetical ones.


And the more you can relate yourself to what they’re going through, the better your odds of being genuinely helpful and supportive to the person next to you, not to mention being less reactive and emotional yourself.


3. Be a Mirror, Not a Mechanic

3. 做一面镜子,而不是一个机械师

Without a doubt, the number one mistake I see people (especially couples) make in their communication with each other is that they get stuck in “Fix-it Mode.”

毫无疑问,我看到人们 ( 尤其是夫妻 ) 在交流中犯的第一个错误就是他们陷入了“修复模式”

Bob feels bad and starts describing how he feels and why he thinks he feels that way to Shelly. Because she sees that Bob is in pain and struggling, Shelly’s natural reaction is to try and alleviate or eliminate Bob’s suffering.


But here’s the thing:


Most people struggling emotionally don’t want someone to fix their pain, they went to feel understood.


Bake that into your brain, because it’s one of the most counterintuitive but universally true laws of human psychology I can think of. And once you really believe it and start acting accordingly, everybody starts feeling better.

把这一点深刻进你的大脑,因为这是我能想到的最违反直觉但却是普遍真实的人类心理学定律之一, 一旦你真明白了这一点,并开始相应地行动,每个人都能感觉更好。

So, how do we get out of a Fix-it mindset and start helping people feel understood? The best way is to practice a technique called Reflective Listening.

那么,我们如何摆脱固执己见的修复心态,开始帮助人们感到被理解呢 ?

Reflective Listening means that when someone tells you something, you simply reflect back to them what they said, either literally or with your own slight spin on it.


For example:
Your boss: I can’t believe Teddy embarrassed me like that in front of the whole staff! You: Sounds like you were really embarrassed.
Your husband: You never listen, you’re always just giving me advice. You: It seems like you feel as though I tend to just give advice without really listening to what you’re saying.


Now, I know this might sound silly or condescending at first blush, but I promise you it works.
The reason is, it’s not about the content of what they’re saying, it’s about how they feel. Yes, they know and you know that they were really embarrassed at work. The real value of your reflecting back what they just said is that it helps them feel like you are with them, that you’re connected and understanding and on their side.


By mirroring another person’s experience you’re giving them something far more valuable than advice — you’re giving them a genuine connection.


4. Validate Your Own Emotions
One of the hardest things about other people’s bad moods is the emotions they tend to stir up in us.
Our spouse is sad and melancholic, and we get frustrated.
Our boss is anxious and overbearing, and which makes us feel anxious too.
Our parent is angry and irritable, and we respond with annoyance and sarcasm.

4. 确认自己的情绪
· 我们的配偶悲伤忧郁,我们感到沮丧。
· 我们的老板焦虑而专横,这也让我们感到焦虑。
· 我们的父母生气、易怒的,我们以烦恼和讽刺作为回应。

The trouble is, once we’re deep into a spiral of our own negative emotion, it’s hard to have enough mental and emotional bandwidth to navigate our own mood and that of someone else. This is why we often react to other people’s bad moods in a way that ultimately isn’t helpful to them, us, or the relationship.


The solution is to get better at noticing and managing our own emotional responses early so that they don’t balloon out of control. And the best way I know of to do that is through a process called validation.


Validation simply means acknowledging our own emotions and reminding ourselves that they’re okay and reasonable.


For example, suppose your spouse or partner has been worked up all evening about some incident at work. They’re frustrated, angry, a little bit anxious, and there’s no sign of it letting up. While you’ve been able to tolerate it for the past couple hours, you feel yourself starting to get annoyed with them.


Rather than a) acting on this annoyance and saying something unhelpful to your spouse, or b) becoming judgmental of yourself for feeling annoyed with them, you could validate your own annoyance.

与其:A. 对这种厌烦采取行动,对你的配偶说一些无益的话 或者 B. 因为对他们厌烦而对自己进行评判

You could pause for a few seconds, acknowledge that you’re feeling annoyed and frustrated with your spouse, remind yourself that it’s okay and natural to feel that way, and then ask yourself what the most helpful way to move forward might be.


5. Clarify Your Responsibility

5. 明确你的责任

A common pitfall I see people make when trying to deal effectively with other people’s bad moods is to overextend their responsibility to that person to include how they feel.


Let me unpack that a bit:


We can only be responsible for things that we can control.

· 我们只能对我们能控制的事情负责。

Emotions, by their very nature, are not directly under our control.

· 情绪,就其本质而言,是不受我们直接控制的。

Because we can’t control emotions directly, we’re not responsible for them — either our own or those of other people.

· 因为我们不能直接控制情绪,所以我们不需要对情绪负责——无论是我们自己的还是别人的。

However, we are responsible for our actions — for how we choose to behave and think.


When we assume responsibility for things beyond our control, we set ourselves up for unnecessary frustration, disappointment, and resentment.


On the other hand, when we are clear about what we actually have control over — and therefore responsibility for — we’re able to deploy our efforts and resources as effectively as possible.


In short, because you can’t directly control how someone feels, you’re not responsible for it.


So much unnecessary struggle, conflict, and wasted energy comes from a fundamental misunderstandingabout what’s really under our control.


On the other hand, it’s amazing how much genuinely helpful energy gets freed up when you remove the burden of excess responsibility from yourself.


When you stop expecting to be able to make someone feel better, you can start taking real steps to connect with them in a heartfelt way and become genuinely supportive.


All You Need to Know


Bad moods and painful emotions are hard to handle — both in ourselves and also in the people we work and live with. While it’s not possible to “fix” another person’s emotional struggles, there are a handful of practical skills you can learn to help you be more genuinely supportive and helpful in the face of other people’s bad moods.

虽然不可能 "解决 "别人的情绪挣扎,但你可以学习一些实用的技能,帮助你在面对别人的不良情绪时,更加真诚地支持和帮助别人。

And even if you fail completely to help the other person — or have no interest in doing so — skills like self-validation and reflective listening will help you stay calm and effective instead of reactive and impulsive in the face of other people’s bad moods.