Do You Feel Responsible for Other People’s Feelings? – Stop Self-Silencing EP #6

By Fifi Mason

Have you ever found yourself walking on eggshells and silencing your own voice just to keep those around you comfortable?

Taking on the responsibility of other people’s feelings, is another one of the core reasons you might be self-silencing.

This is more often a challenge for those of us who are more empathetic, and naturally tuned into the emotions of others.

We often end up carrying the weight of not just our feelings but those of everyone around us.

It’s like being an emotional sponge, absorbing the mood and atmosphere, and feeling a deep sense of responsibility to manage and maintain harmony.

You might find yourself adjusting your words, actions, even your presence, to ensure everyone else is comfortable and happy.

You might worry that you’ll upset someone by what you say. That maybe the content will trigger them in some way, or that if they don’t agree and find it offensive it will make them angry.

When it comes to sharing things about your business, more promotional ‘salesy’ content – you might hold back because you don’t want people to be annoyed by sharing an offer, or to perhaps irritate them by sending too many emails or posting too much about it.

It might not even be sharing something on social media, it might be that you make a decision not to do something in your business because you’re worried someone will get mad.

In a recent coaching call one of my clients told me she wasn’t going to run a specific promotion on her highest ticket offer because a few weeks before someone had bought it the full price.

She didn’t want to upset that one person, so was willing to miss out on the opportunity to work with and help more people by not offering it at all.

After we discussed the reasons why, it was clear she was taking on the responsibility of their feelings.

I asked what would be the worst that could happen if they were upset about it, and it was that they might reach out and ask for a discount (or worse a refund).

So we came up with options and responses to that, one was to give extra value as a goodwill gift but not discount.

So it could be taking on that responsibility in other ways in your business.

This could also show up when sharing your achievements. You might feel people will think you are showing off or bragging and worry that people will feel inadequate or think that you’re rubbing it in their face.

These worries and fears, while they stem from empathy and compassion, can lead us to lose parts of ourselves just to keep others content.

It’s important to see a distinction between being overly-conscientious and being considerate.

You can be considerate by make sure you’re not intentionally hurting anyone by communicating it in the right way, with the right tone.

But not doing so to a level where you are sacrificing your own feeling, livelihood or self-worth, because you don’t want to rock the boat or hurt people’s feelings in any way.

Why Do we Take on the Responsibility of Other People’s Feelings?

Understanding why we do this, can help you begin to move past it.

For some, this responsibility is rooted in their upbringing or past experiences, where they were made to feel responsible for keeping the peace or managing others’ emotions.

For others, it could be a trait they’ve developed over time, especially in professions roles that demand high levels of empathy (coaching for instance).

The issue arises when this sense of responsibility starts impeding our ability to express ourselves authentically and live our lives freely.

Strategies for Breaking Free

Breaking this cycle starts with awareness and then, action. It’s about recognising that our role isn’t to be the emotional guardian for everyone. 

We can be empathetic and supportive, but not at the cost of our own emotional health. A key step here is learning to establish healthy boundariesunderstanding where our responsibility ends and someone else’s begins.

To help with this I have a practical tool that can help you manage the sense of over-responsibility you might feel, particularly when it comes to how our actions and words might result in an emotional response from others.

You can download the Responsibility Reflection Matrix here.

The Responsibility Reflection Matrix

Column 1: Situations

Firstly, in the table, you list down different Situations where you might feel a sense of responsibility for others’ feelings.

This could be anything from promoting a discount in your business, sharing a personal experience on social media, or even expressing an opinion on a controversial topic.

Column 2: Perceived Responsibility

Next, for each situation, you identify the Perceived Responsibility. This is where you articulate what you’re worried about.

For example: You’re concerned that someone might be upset they paid more for a product before a discount was offered. Or perhaps you’re worried about reminding someone of a bad experience through your personal story.

Column 3: Worse Case Result

Then, consider the Worst Case Result. What’s the most challenging outcome you can realistically foresee? Someone might express dissatisfaction or ask for a refund, or maybe they react negatively to a personal story you’ve shared.

Column 4: Proactive Response Plan

The final column is the Proactive Response Plan. Here, you brainstorm how you could handle these worst-case scenarios.

For instance, if someone’s upset about a discount they missed, you could offer them additional value as a goodwill gesture. Or, if someone reacts negatively to a personal story, you could respond with empathy, while also reaffirming the value your experience could offer to others.

This is going to help give you a clearer understanding of your concerns and a practical plan to address them, which can significantly reduce anxiety and increase your confidence in handling these situations.

Another great practice that can help you let go of the instances in our past, is to do forgiveness work. Do this by reflecting on the memory then say a mantra such as “I forgive those who hurt me, and allow myself to move on.”

What are You Responsible For?

While you can’t control how others receive your message, you are responsible for its delivery.

1. Effective Communication

This means ensuring that you communicate your truth effectively and thoughtfully. It’s about more than just what you say; it’s about how you say it.

2. Doing Your Research

Also, research is essential, especially when discussing complex or sensitive topics. Doing research and preparation is not only great for confidence but also ensures that your communication is informed and reliable. This doesn’t mean you need to be an expert on every subject, but having a solid foundation can make a significant difference in how your message is perceived. Backing up your opinions with facts or explaining how you came to your conclusion helps solidify your message.

3. Communicating Your Truth

You’re also responsible for communicating your truth. This is about being authentic and genuine in your expression.

Your audience can often tell if you’re not being sincere, so it’s vital that your words align with your beliefs and values. This authenticity is what makes your message resonate more deeply with others.

4. The Tone and Language Use

Your tone and the words you choose also play a crucial role. They can either invite engagement or create barriers.

Be mindful of how your language might be interpreted and strive to be clear, respectful, and empathetic. This doesn’t mean diluting your message but presenting it in a way that’s considerate and accessible.

5. Being Open and Flexible

Being open and flexible is another important aspect. Communication is a two-way street. Be accepting of feedback, different perspectives, and the possibility of evolving your own views. This openness not only enriches the conversation but also demonstrates a willingness to grow and learn.

6. Thinking Critically

Lastly, critical thinking is key. It’s important to question your assumptions, challenge your biases, and consider multiple viewpoints. This approach not only strengthens your arguments but also shows that you’ve thoughtfully considered various aspects of the issue at hand.

Let Go of Responsibility That Is Not Yours

Remember, this journey towards self-expression is not about neglecting our empathy but about ensuring it doesn’t lead us to lose parts of ourselves in the process. 

Through understanding the root causes and implementing practical strategies, we can begin to establish healthy boundaries and communicate more authentically.

For more insights, check out my book “Stop Self-Silencing”, and if you want support from me to help you on your visibility journey as an impact maker or coach, join my mini-membership The Visibility Lab.

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