The other day I was reflecting on the drastic changes in some of my closest relationships over the years and got to talking about human experiences in general. One aspect of human relations I still find so hard to navigate is when I am used as a dumping ground by another human being who thinks, in all honesty, that we are having a friendly conversation. You know, that situation when someone comes in to talk to you about something and that is exactly what they want – to talk TO you, not WITH you. And all of a sudden you start resembling the local garbage can and things start getting heavier and heavier. Not that you had them easy to start with.
And this is not the worst thing. The worst thing I found was that, not being courageous enough to react honestly, I do one of two things:
- I offload hurt either on the same people or on others (usually closer to me) because now I am carrying a pile of negativity I cannot wait to throw on someone else’s back
- I wait for the dumping to finish, do not engage in any conversation about it but instead do the same, dump my own stuff – though chances are the person in front of me will take it right back to their issues (how much do I dislike phrases like “yeah, sure, let ME tell you an even tougher story”; “that’s nothing, let me tell you about what happened to me.”)
There is, however an alternative, that is clear and thus kind. But it means practising some hard honesty: be an active listener, set up boundaries and be honest when you see that the intent is just to dump, clearly stating you cannot take that. And watch the reaction …