How to Catch Emotional Vomit

Finding a good person to talk to can be difficult, but sometimes the hardest part of being a member of an emotional vomiting session is being the one to listen. What do you do? Do you give advice, just listen and nod, relate with a story about yourself?

We all need it at one time or another. We fill with emotion, it eats us alive, and we need a trusty person to dump it all out on. This person has to be easy to talk to, non-judgmental, and a friend that maybe is close but not too close, depending on your preferences. Finding a good person to talk to can be difficult, but sometimes the hardest part of being a member of an emotional vomiting session is being the one to listen. What do you do? Do you give advice, just listen and nod, relate with a story about yourself?

Trying to figure out how to be a good friend can be a very delicate balancing act. Here’s some advice on being the best listener you can be.

1. Be an active listener.
Active listening is something we hear rather often, but what does it truly mean? To put it simply, and active listener is not just sitting and nodding. They have their eyes on the speaker, their mouth closed, and their ears open. Their phone is also put away.

An active listener isn’t interrupting or talking over the speaker, and they aren’t waiting for said speaker to be done so they can reply. They’re listening to understand, not to get to their turn. While interrupting is a no-no, staying totally quiet isn’t being an active listener, either.

Think about it: the best way to know someone heard what you said is to hear how they are responding. Not only should you offer responses, but they should also be well-thought out and show that you’re both hearing and understanding what is being said to you.

2. Ask them what they want. 
It’s super easy to get caught up in what the other person might want from you when you’re the “chosen one” to be vented to, but the truth is that everyone wants something different. There is absolutely nothing wrong with simply asking them, “how can I best help you.” In fact, I encourage you to!

However, if you don’t feel comfortable asking them what they want, you can easily offer them a bit of everything and gauge their reactions. This will assist you in seeing what you can give them that will be most helpful.

3.  Option 1: Just listen.
Sometimes, you don’t want advice and you don’t want someone to tell you they understand because they’ve been there. Sometimes you just want to yell, scream, and allow your feelings to just be. If this is what the speaker seems to want, you should offer it to them.

Don’t talk about a similar experience you had. Don’t offer them advice. Just pay attention, listen actively, and nod your head. Respond when there is space with simple things like, “yeah,” “that makes sense,” and “I can see why you would feel like that.”

4. Option 2: Identify.
Validation is something all humans seek. No matter how you slice it, we have moments where we just need to know we aren’t the only one and we aren’t totally crazy for feeling the way we do.

When your speaker needs validation, you can offer it by way of identifying with them. This is as simple as telling them (in a short and sweet version) of something that happened to you that was very similar to what they are venting to you about.

Telling them a similar experience from your own perspective not only brings your relationship closer (self-disclosure and vulnerability is the basis of all relationships, platonic or otherwise) but it also allows the speaker to feel that they aren’t alone. It makes them feel that they emotions they are experiencing are valid and appropriate to the given situation.

That being said, don’t use the empty space to tell them your entire similar experience from start to finish with every detail. This is still about them, and your story should supplement theirs, not take over the conversation.

5. Option 3: Offer advice.
Sometimes, people just plain need an idea of what to do. They don’t know how to handle a situation, and need someone else’s outlook to know which direction to head in.

When someone comes to us with an issue, it is a natural instinct to offer advice on it. That makes this option, in my opinion, one of the easiest.

Your advice offering doesn’t mean that you’re telling them what to do, demanding they do it “your way,” or even pressuring them to take a certain action. You’re just helping them to sort things out and see the options they have to make changes. This is often very helpful and can easily take a clogged and overwhelmed mind and turn it smooth and focused.

6. Just be there.
Being a good friend can be really complicated, or it can be rather simple. The best thing you can do for a friend that needs to emotion vomit on you is to just be there for them. Listen to what they’re saying. Put your heart in the right place. Let them talk.

After all, that’s the basis of what they need.

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