get a life; or, another emotional labor question
April 20, 2018 10:12 PM   Subscribe

I make my living in a job that necessitates my performing a lot of emotional labor. I am also a person who tends to take on a lot of emotional labor in my personal life. It getting exhausting and I'm responding to that exhaustion in maladaptive ways. Help me figure out how to recalibrate so that I don't lose my mind.

I am a business manager for a small business in a fairly small town in arts education field that attracts talented people who tend to have really bad boundaries. I report directly to the business owner and my role involves many things but a lot of it is customer facing. The customer facing stuff is fairly straightforward, but as of late we have a lot of regulars who have many opinions about how we should be running and growing the business. Most of this is well-intentioned and it is heartening that people find value in what we are providing and want to share their ideas for helping it thrive.

That being said, it is getting extremely tiresome to be the gatekeeper of this business when seemingly every other person who avails of our services wants to give us "advice" without having any real sense of what it means to keep a small business afloat financially - and by "us" I mean "me" because I am essentially the public face of this company and as such am a captive audience for everyone who walks into the building and sees me at my desk. I am also much younger than almost all of our regular customers and frequently these unsolicited opinions have a tinge of condescension about them - especially when they come from men. (I'm a woman. Of color. Which may or may not matter, I'm not sure.) In order to maintain good relations with our customers I have to at least give the appearance of making them feel heard, even when their opinions are objectively not good for the company. My boss is a good person and also for the most part a good boss; his main flaw is that he hates conflict and he delegates a lot of the work that has the potential for conflict to me. This is fine - it's one of the reasons why he hired me and I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this.

The combination of all of the above factors basically means all day every day I am performing gargantuan amounts of emotional labor just to keep things from going to shit. I'm rapidly getting to a point where it's getting difficult to get through the day without frustration. I would love to have just one day where I go to work, do what is assigned of me, chat in a banal way with our customers, and that's it. Instead, it feels like all I do all day every day is listen to people mansplain at me and expect me to change business policy as a result.

Today was especially bad; I was dealing with a notoriously difficult customer and he said something that really, really pissed me off. I got through the interaction without any issue, but internally I wanted to scream. I texted a friend who I always felt was a safe person to vent to and told him what happened. I have been the recipient of his work-related venting in the past and am happy to be an ear for him when he needs it. In response to my text, he told me that I was stressing out over stupid shit, I need to stop letting things bother me, and I need to get a life.

I don't even necessarily think he's wrong about that! Though I wish he had said it in a way that was less hurtful; I've been trying really hard not to succumb to the shame monster after he texted that to me, without much success. But I don't know how to not let things bother me when my job quite literally necessitates me having these stressful interactions with people during which all I am doing is performing emotional labor.

I love my job, aside from this nonsense. I really do. It's the best job I've ever had and we do really great work in fostering creative work and building community and I'm proud of what we do; in the aggregate this is the happiest I have ever been in any job I've ever had. But I've never had to be customer-facing in any of my prior jobs in this intense of a way and I don't have readily-accessible coping mechanisms. Is there a way for me to reframe these experiences in a way that keeps me from having these intense negative reactions day in and day out? Or do I just need a vacation?
posted by thereemix to Work & Money (23 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Hi and sorry to hear you are having to deal with this.

I understand your situation a bit, I think... Some of the best of my work involves listening to people about their problems to help them solve it , and also working with very intelligent people to advocate for systemic solutions.
It's amazing but exhausting, and sometimes also people don't know my background or level of experience and want to give *lots* of advice or make sure I know what I'm doing etc.

a couple tactics I've taken up:
establish my credibility by telling people about me and my expertise when we meet. In my case this is in volunteer training but it can also be introduced to regular clients as

"i appreciate your ideas in this. Since I have a background in xyz I usually use y approach...."

Another has been including some background in our written materials... "We love that our members are invested in what we do. We are often asked about z. We do it this way because x..."

Finally sometimes people really are good at things they offer advice on and are willing to help. If you have volunteers you can also hand them stuff to do and put them in charge of it. They often quickly learn why things are done a particular way, but also feel appreciated. Not sure it's an option for you to do this, given the workplace is so different.

I think you should discuss concerns with the boss, because maybe there are solutions. Checking in with them about difficult conversations once in a while... Or maybe you could arrange a specific time to be away from being "the face" and doing your other work, or you could just close the office early Fridays to allow you to shift focus and have a break from this part.

Finally, I'd tell your friend how you felt and see if you can get better support in future with a more specific in person ask. You are definitely not out.of line with this frustration!

Thanks for asking this, I'll be interested in any suggestions too!
posted by chapps at 10:45 PM on April 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

"oh, we've found that our way works well for us. Have a nice day!"

Preface with "well, that's an interesting idea" if you feel like you have to.

Figure out a minimally polite way to refuse to do the emotional labor and eventually people will stop demanding it.

I'm a white lady, you are correct that you probably get more of this as a person of color, and a friend has observed that as a fat woman she gets more emotions dumped on her.

On preview: you don't have to prove your credentials to these people, engaging with their ideas will only encourage them.
posted by momus_window at 10:51 PM on April 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Would it work to excitedly interrupt to say, "Wow, this sounds like a really interesting idea! The best way to suggest it is actually via email; I'm not in a position to make that change myself, but if you send it in, it will definitely reach the right person."

If they keep blathering, hit them with a big sunny smile, "Definitely write this up and send it in, it's a really interesting idea. ...Did (service I just provided before you started blathering at me) solve your issue for today? Can I help with anything else?"
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:59 PM on April 20, 2018 [11 favorites]

I feel you on a lot of this. Context: I’m a queer Latino university prof who spends a lot of time doing emotional labor at work. In addition to the usual workload for this, being post-migrant & queer means that minority students come to me for support and sometimes to ask me to intervene with my colleagues on their behalf. Being junior faculty (as well as brown) means navigating white/male/str8 fragility while trying to advocate for students as well as myself. In my spare time, I help organize a femme-forward, POC, trans-inclusive club night that involves especially intense emotional labor for a whole host of reasons.

I’ll admit that I’m still learning how to better manage the toll of emotional labor. Here are a few strategies I’ve developed that seem to help:

• as mentioned by momus_window, finding ways to refuse emotional labor without triggering a shitty response is crucial but hard.
• It helps to have a good long think about which forms of emotional labor you are committed to, and which ones you didn’t sign up for. In my case, for example, I want my energies to go towards supporting minority students and queer/trans/POC artists, not the fragile feelings of more powerful colleagues.
• it’s also worth reflecting on how much you offer emotional labor without being asked explicitly. For myself, often all it took was for someone to express distress in my presence, and I’d offer myself up as an emotional dumping ground. People around me learned to use that as a lever. I had to learn to recognize these responses, reflect on whether my support was actually needed, and also whether the person involved is someone who should be getting a share of my limited emotional resources.
- +++1 for tactics like “write this up in an email and send it to me.” Turning requests for your labor into labor for the requester—even just minimally so—really helps to slow down such requests.
posted by LMGM at 1:21 AM on April 21, 2018 [11 favorites]

I can empathize. I am also in a job that requires me to face customers throughout the day. Most of them are regulars. I am also the gatekeeper so to speak.

My approach to handle unsolicited advice or comments is to not engage in a back and forth. Don't try to prove or justify. Never complain, never explain. Don't share. Don't elaborate. Listen, acknowledge, and move on to another subject or topic of business.

A pleasant, "Thanks for the suggestion" , "I see what you're saying" "We'll keep it in mind", or "I'll pass it on" usually does the trick. "Maybe" and "okay" can be good too.

Not caring is also a useful tip. Have no opinion about their opinions.
posted by loveandhappiness at 2:59 AM on April 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

Do not engage, do not engage, do not engage. Say "The owner makes decisions about that." Repeat if necessary, but don't give them anything to engage with.
posted by Violet Hour at 3:10 AM on April 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

The thing about emotional labor is that taking it on is largely a choice and I challenge your assertion that you need to be the gatekeeper of any of this stuff.

It's fine to shut clients down as soon as they start with, "I can tell this is important to you and since my hands are tied, you should send your ideas in an email to _____."

Having said that, if pretty much every customer entering has difficulty with and suggestions for improving the business, is there any chance they're right?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:18 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I get that you're in a tough spot with the customers; it sounds like a business where it's important that the customer feels like they have a personal relationship with the company, one that's deeper than just the transactional relationship between buyer and seller. It also sounds like your customers have a lot of ego and that making them feel important is key to keeping their loyalty, which is what makes them feel like they can give you unsolicited advice and condescend to you. (That and the fact that you're a female PoC who is younger than them—no way is that not a factor here.) You're expected to make them all feel like VIPs.

What might help is if you keep in mind that the whole "VIP" concept is utter bullshit. It's not about genuine respect and friendship, it's about stroking a customer's ego and making them feel special with little treats and bits of emotional validation, so that they will give you lots and lots of money. It works great on a certain type of customer. That's not to say that there can't also be some customers who you genuinely like and want to take extra good care of on that basis, but most VIPs are just people who can be convinced to spend big money if you tell them they're special.

So detach a little bit. Allow yourself to see the true power relationship here, and roll your eyes (on the inside only, obviously) at your more disagreeable customers when they think they are talking down to you. Think of them as children, like a tween who thinks they have some brilliant and cutting insight about the world that they've just invented, but which in reality you thought of long ago and moved on from as you matured and grew wiser. Let them have their little moment, but see it as being more about their naïveté and immaturity than about them genuinely talking down to you. They're talking down to you the way a child talks down to their parents when think they're the first person to realize how the world "really" works. You know better than them, but you also know that they're too full of their own ego to listen to you, which is their loss.

And yeah, take a vacation. Go do some other things for a while, get your perspective back. You sound like you're really stressed out about this stuff right now and I think spending a little time reminding yourself that there's so much more to life than this pettiness will be good for you. Your friend had a point, although he phrased it unkindly: these customers are dumb, but dumb work shit is everywhere in life and you need to be able to let it roll off your back. If you're taking it to heart, it may be that the world of your job is taking on too much significance in your life. I don't care who you are and what your job is, we all see only a tiny and distorted sliver of the world if we view it from the lens of whatever company we work for. It's easy to forget that that sliver isn't everything, especially when your job is eating up a lot of your emotional energy. Go out there and remind yourself.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:24 AM on April 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

The weird thing is the customers love the business and keep coming back. Their suggestions aren't complaints; they are aware of our plans to grow and expand and it seems like everyone has an opinion about how to achieve that growth.

Some of which are irrelevant: "You should franchise!"

Some of which are mean: "I know your mission is to provide arts education and opportunities for shows to people of all ages and skill levels in order to foster community but I'm way more talented than Phil and I think he shouldn't ever be allowed to be given public exposure for his work because he doesn't deserve it, you should rank your students and turn people away who I think suck."

Some of which are just nonsense and also mean: "Don't give performance opportunities to the kid students, it will drive away child-free adult students."

None of this contributes to growth. Franchising does not make sense for a small town community art center.

Taking sggestions like this seriously in order not to make people mad that I hate their idea is just hard.
posted by thereemix at 7:01 AM on April 21, 2018

Instead, it feels like all I do all day every day is listen to people mansplain at me and expect me to change business policy as a result.

Yeah, it's infuriating. I'm a white woman and have owned a business and worked in other people's businesses and been told a million times what the business needs to do. The way I've reframed it is to tell myself those people don't really expect you to change anything. They probably have several conversations like that every week. Next they are going to the ice cream parlor where they'll tell them what flavors they need to serve. I used to read about business a lot and would come back with "Oh that's so interesting, I was just reading that column in the WSJ..." That's harder to do with regulars though, because people become aware that when you say, "That's so interesting" it really means the opposite and you are trying to shut them down. People like that may also think you are interested in them personally if you try to turn it around on them, make them really explain what they mean, or anything like that.

But the main thing that helps me is knowing they do this to everyone; they are talking shit and to some extent they know it. They do this everywhere they go.

With your update: those people whose criticisms have to do with them not getting whatever it is they want and thinking other people need to be turned away? That's not just spitballing; they are personally dissatisfied on some level and if they keep repeating that you probably do have to give them a substantive response along the lines of what your mission is. But they are still bullshitting really; they are just trying to clothe a personal desire in an appeal to what's "right."
posted by BibiRose at 7:12 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

You don't have to actually take their ideas seriously, you just have to give the appearance of taking them seriously. It is amazing how fake you can be when you do this without people noticing. People see what they want to see. They just want someone to tell them that their bullshit idea is actually solid gold, so that they can walk away feeling good about themselves. You don't have to meaningfully engage with the idea itself, you just have to tell the customer that you value their input, even if you think their idea is absolutely awful.

Detach, detach, detach. Don't give these people your real self. Have a mask you can put on, a customer service persona that you can run on automatic for these interactions. Genuine engagement is not necessary, these people just want to hear themselves talk.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:30 AM on April 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh boy, this sort of thing makes me feel insane and exhausted too. I've found it really helpful to acknowledge/validate people's feelings (which is usually all they really want — Anticipation above describes it well) without actually allowing myself to take personal responsibility for them.

I'll also add a book recommendation: Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg. Helped me break my own habit of putting my whole vulnerable self into conversations that didn't need to be about me at all.
posted by saramour at 7:54 AM on April 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

You may totally chafe at this, but I have found that the easiest way to deal with uninformed advice that I have to be polite about at work is to pretend that I dont have the authority to make the decision. “Oh yeah, that sounds really interesting. I’ll have to run that by [boss’s name].”

Part of me hates to pretend, as a minority woman, that I am any less qualified or authorized than I am. But the people giving me the advice don’t really believe I am anyway, and as you point out it’s annoying and exhausting to educate people about your business in a way that doesn’t for a second make them imagine that they are any less smart or valued than they wish to feel.

If the customer really is valuable of course, then next 1-1 you have with your boss you say “oh btw Bob Smith suggests we franchise. I said I would mention it to you” in such a way that your boss knows you’re just covering your ass, and also wont be surprised if he runs into Bob Smith at the grocery store. This has the added benefit of keeping your boss in the loop about how much of this stuff you get exposed to.
posted by mrmurbles at 8:14 AM on April 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Is there any way to give yourself a role change? A large and prominently signboarded suggestion box - and now, what could you be doing with the time you spend listening to customers' opinions? Be SOOOOOOOO BUSY with new initiatives and programs and publicity for that, that oh, you just can't linger to listen to suggestions and complaints, so sorry, gotta rush, butwe'd love to hear from you in the suggestion box.
posted by MiraK at 8:22 AM on April 21, 2018

Ugh, this sounds exhausting. My sympathies.

One thing that's sometimes helpful is to slightly increase the level of effort required for these unsolicited suggestions. Currently all they have to do is saunter up and start talking at you, which is effectively zero barrier to entry. Someone upthread mentioned telling them to submit an email; perhaps you could also ask your boss if a 'suggestion box' of some type could be implemented? This way the responsibility (in their eyes) is taken off you, as there is another, more official avenue for submission of ideas. It heads off the ones who are looking to bloviate to a captive audience as they're wasting their breath telling you, and as it's likely the majority of these people don't really care if their suggestions are adopted and are just talking to be validated, the volume of actual written suggestions will likely be significantly smaller. It has the added bonus of allowing you to cut them off yet still appear polite and professional: "I'm sorry, but I have a lot of work to do at the moment. But we're always happy to hear suggestions on how we can improve" and then direct them to the alternate method.

As for the ones you can't dissuade, bland pleasantries are the way to go. Engaging them in any way will just result in more unwanted conversation, so having a clutch of inoffensive phrases to rattle off at opportune moments is useful: 'That's an interesting suggestion.' 'I'll try to pass that along.' 'Thank you for your feedback.' &c. You can make a game of it; make a list of them and keep it somewhere unobtrusive, and see how many it takes on any one given person before they stop. Rank the 'winners'. Make a bracket competition with some of your worst offenders. Meanwhile, just let their words wash over you as you continue to do your work.

(I swear I read a comment on this site, years ago, from someone discussing this same topic, who talked about drawing circuit diagrammes and composing rock operas in his head when faced with particularly tedious or long-winded talkers. My searching skills have failed me, but if anyone knows where to find that comment, IIRC it's worth a read.)
posted by myotahapea at 8:29 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hey I am you but in a different industry and with more front-line staff...and we have made a mission change that brings out a lot of these interactions.

First, keep in mind what they want to do. Most people who make these comments want to engage, and be recognized. A few really do want serious change. And a very few are just like that. But if you concentrate on what they want (your time and attention) and whether or not you can give it to them, rather than getting into the details, that will help. Because then you can come away from the interaction feeling like you weren't arguing or not-doing, you did what was needed.

Anyways some ways to approach:
- at times that people are prone to do this (changeover between classes, studio hour, whatever), get grounded first. Have your tea before. Save anything you can do in front of them (we call this "brochure rack time" for then, so that you can 'get busy.'
- centre your weight on both feet and keep taking deep breaths so your body is under you. This also means that people who want to see you tense up, will go away. (These are the last group.)

To the people who are really trying to be helpful (franchise, etc.), some stock phrases that don't invite further discussion:
"Hey, great idea. If we do that, I'll make sure you're the first to know."
"I love the way you think! World domination! If it's ever in the cards I'll let you know."
"Art makes the world go around eh? It would be great."

To the people who want Only Their Things, but are generally nice:
"It can feel weird when the hallway is full of kids, can't it?"
"It's rough, but it takes lots of beginners to create a master"
"This is a great show for starting out"
"I know, but there's also just something really neat about having so much variety on the wall." this case you are recognizing their feelings (which is, basically, I think, worrying that they look bad for not being in some elite milieu.) If you WANT to engage, you could keep some information about other venues for them but I think mostly just letting them feel like you are committed to your mission but recognize there's a kernel of truth there, will help. But also don't get involved in the question of Excellence or defending your mission.

To the people who are jerks (in my job, we have people where we are not Macho Enough):
"Ohhh... NO, we couldn't do THAT."
"Gosh no, the kids help us keep the doors open."
- check with your boss but if there's someone really negative, it might be a bigger discussion.

Take heart! Take breaks! Take a vacation!
posted by warriorqueen at 9:14 AM on April 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm going to address a different tactic here: you might be exhausted because you don't have good personal support. If a friend of mine said that to me in text, whether or not he had a point, I would no longer be friends with that person. You reached out for support and got the sort of bullshit tough love approach that is actually all about HIM avoiding doing emotional labor by supporting and listening to YOU. Even if he was 200% right, the way to approach that you seem fixated on this would be to say, preferably in person, "This sounds incredibly stressful, and I noticed you've been talking about it a lot. Do you feel like you're spending a lot of time outside of work fixated on this stuff and it's draining you? Is there something you can do to not carry it around?" And to have a genuine supportive conversation about that.

I'm guessing here but it sounds like you might be exhausted because you are giving so much labor and no one is doing it for you in return. Can you lean on your close female friends and relatives? Can you make sure you're getting adequate social time with friends where you're truly equals, not just there as a repository of frustrations and then shit on when you ask the same?

I'm so mad at your "friend". I hope you find better ones and all the love and support you deserve.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:30 AM on April 21, 2018 [13 favorites]

This is a tiny little thing I learned from a wise WoC I work with sometimes.

When someone is getting up her nose a bit, she casually and lightly places one hand over her heart and keeps it there for the rest of the interaction (it looks as though she's about to fiddle with her necklace, or maybe like she's having a moment of mild heartburn- or even like she's sympathetically holding her heart to show empathy for the speaker... but it's not a big dramatic moment and usually the speaker wouldn't even really notice it).

I saw her do it once or twice, and recognized that there was an intention to the gesture, so I asked what she was doing.

She said, "Oh... when someone is demanding my energy and I don't want to give it to them, I put my hand here. It's to remind me that my heart is mine and that person doesn't get access to it unless I consent to give them access, which in this case, I do not. My hand becomes a gentle but protective physical barrier between my energy and their energy. It reminds me that I am safe, grounded and centred and protected over here, and I'm not joined with them. No matter what that person is doing over there- they're free to do it, and I don't judge them- but they don't get to access my heart while they do it. My heart is mine and I choose when to share it."


Since then I've started doing it too.
It actually really works.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:11 AM on April 21, 2018 [33 favorites]

Part of me hates to pretend, as a minority woman, that I am any less qualified or authorized than I am.

I am a white man and I have absolutely no compunctions about telling customers at work that something is beyond my authority if it gets me out of dealing with their craziness. I'm a technician though, so any kind of emotional labor beyond not actively pissing off the customer is outside of my job description. I will happily hide behind a wall of bureaucracy if it makes my day go more smoothly. I don't have arguments, I just have a job to do and people can either let me do it or not. I get paid the same either way.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:10 AM on April 21, 2018

Ooooh, this is so hard. I feel for you.

I agree with WidgetAlley up above, in that you need more support. Can you find a group of women who are in similar roles to drink iced tea or wine with and share stories? Because, honestly, that's what keeps me sane. I'm sorry your friend wasn't kinder.

As far as these people go, one that helped me was realizing that when I'm doing client management, I'm obligated (and I want to!) make these people feel validated, heard, and special. That doesn't mean I have to take their opinions seriously, or answer their questions right then. You can continue to build the relationship, without having to act on whatever suggestion they come up with.

Here are a few ways that I do this:

Compliment, compliment, compliment. - with or without a deflection. "It sounds like you have a real passion for this work." "I had no idea you had such a strong background in (whatever). How long have you been working in this field?" Yes, if you adopt this second approach, you'll have to listen to them ramble endlessly about their background, but you'll have moved them off of the original issue. If they try to return to it, smile (ugh, I hate doing this, too, when I don't feel like it) and say, "Yes, I've captured that. Do you have any other suggestions?" or if you don't have time (or the desire) to engage anymore, say something like, "Yes, I've captured that. I'm really sorry - I'd love to continue this discussion, but I have to do XYZ now. Would you send me your feedback in an email?"

Use the ambiguous "we" - whether it's you and your manager, the Board or whatever, and redirect to something you know they care about. After someone says something like, "Ugh, kids," smile, and say sympathetically, "Yes, change is hard, but the Board decided that we need to invest in the next generation. Just so you know, though, (your pet program) is very much a key priority!"

If they throw someone else under the bus (this one is hard), return the focus onto them, not Phil (or whoever). "Tell me more about your experience at (ranking event or whatever)." Then, gather information about their experience with your system. If they try to veer off into why Phil (or whoever) is terrible, redirect them. "I'm really interested in your feedback about your experience with us."

They may be difficult, but they might also have some good ideas. After they are done venting, zero in on the easiest thing to fix (and, ideally, the one the most likely to effect change) and say, "So, if we sent two reminder emails instead of just one that would have helped? Got it! Thanks for sharing your feedback with me." Or, if you're not in a position to make the change, you can just say, "Okay, I've captured your comments and will bring them up at our next team meeting."

Here are a few other phrases that have worked for me.

"That's a good point/interesting idea/interesting approach. Would you send me your thoughts in an email? I want to make sure I can give them my full attention."

"Thanks for your thoughts! Our agenda/system/structure/process is pretty set for this year, but I've captured them to be included our planning discussions. If you think of anything else, would you send me an email?"

"I'm just about to head into a meeting/set up for this event/catch a flight to Vegas, but I want to make sure I give your comments my full attention. Would you send me your thoughts in an mail?"

Then, when you get their comments, all you have to do is write back and say something like, "Dear (PersonName): Thank you so much for taking the time to outline your suggestions (for whatever). We really appreciate your commitment to our organization and will definitely include them in our discussions/planning sessions/brainstorming sessions, etc. Thanks again! Best regards."

This kind of stuff can be a horrible nuisance, and it doesn't address the injustice of them bloviating at you or not giving you the respect or authority your role deserves. I don't have an answer for that, necessarily, other than talking with your manager and trying to change the parameters of your job. I have noticed, however, when I do do these things, over time, strained relationships become much more relaxed, and people who used to annoy me a LOT are now some of my strongest allies. Plus, being vented at can give you a level of insight into your organization and the general surrounding culture that others, including your manager, may not have.

YMMV, but to me, it's been worth it.
posted by dancing_angel at 11:53 AM on April 21, 2018

You've got a lot of good ideas for the work portion above. For the friend who expects an ear with venting but doesn't reciprocate at all, next time he comes to vent, repeat back exactly what he offered you last time. See if he likes it. Stop being a good ear when all you get back from him is bad ear.
posted by quince at 12:44 PM on April 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

"You should franchise!"

"Haha. Maybe."

"...I'm way more talented than Phil and I think he shouldn't ever be allowed to be given public exposure for his work because he doesn't deserve it, you should rank your students and turn people away who I think suck."

Thanks for suggestion. (This comment from Phil the client who wants to ban kid performers could also be ignored or brushed off. Or could be met with silence and an hmmm. No response really required. It sounds like they are venting and they shouldn't expect a change in policy.)

Nobody needs to know you dislike their ideas.
posted by loveandhappiness at 2:46 PM on April 21, 2018

This may not be possible, but do you have a volunteer or an intern to help you with your work? Could you get one? Perhaps a student who wants to build their resume. Part of this person's role could be to do the "uh huh, how interesting" customer engagement. This person could also genuinely say, "I'll have to pass that idea along to management" without you being the one to do so and undermine your own authority. I wonder if having even 1-2 hours a day as a break from the emotional labor would help you cope? Plus, you'll have a fun young person around to roll your eyes with after a particularly egregious mansplaining session occurs.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:39 AM on April 26, 2018

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