- Maybe it's stuff that is meaningless to you or
- Maybe it's stuff that feels inappropriate for you to be told or
- Maybe it's something that they should really be talking to someone else about or
- Maybe you are just sick of someone always coming to you with their stuff
Before I share a really helpful solution, remember that you need to concentrate your energy on what you have control over. Pulling your hair out or rolling your eyes or whining to someone else about how much you hate being the person everyone "dumps on" isn't going to change a thing. However, you do have complete control over what you say or do that either encourages or discourages the continuation of the unwanted behavior. So, let's assume that you have decided you are going to take control!
A few years ago, I stumbled on a response (or interruption) that can be extremely helpful for situations like these. When someone sits down and starts to "share", you can politely interrupt them and say "Before you get into this, can you tell me what you want me to do with this information?" You might be met with silence or they may ask you what you mean by that. Either one of those responses is an opening for you to elaborate. "I will do a better job of listening if I know what you want me to do with this. Do you want me to help solve a problem? Do you want me to take your side? Do you want me take a message to someone for you? Do you want me to simply let you vent and say nothing so you can get this off your chest?" If it's a person that struggles getting to the point, you can ask "what do you want me to listen for in your story?"
Perhaps you have other options you could add to the list. I began doing this and it works beautifully! I add a bit more by saying "I don't know both sides of the story so I won't be taking sides." "I am not going to be a messenger for you. Have you talked to them about this? " "I think you should work out your own solution to this issue." "I'm not comfortable having you talk to me about other people."
Every workshop I teach on communication I get questions about what to do when other people come to you venting about someone else ... This has been my response and frequently participants send me a note later telling me how much this has helped.
I am anxious to hear your comments this week on what you say in these situations.
PQ - Where could you use this strategy in your life, or with whom? It takes courage to take control, but you will feel better when you are honest with them!
P.S. - if you are the person that does the venting to someone else, maybe you need to think about what you want the other person to do with what you are sharing BEFORE you share it!