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Four Ways to Maintain Social Connections with People Who Can’t Meet Us Emotionally

Updated: May 1

1. Relationship vs. relatedness. In a relationship we’re open and establish emotional reciprocity whereas in relatedness there’s communication but no goal of having a satisfying emotional exchange. You stay in contact and have whatever interactions are tolerable without exceeding the limits that work for you.

2. Stay Mindful. Rather than engaging in an emotional conversation with the person, use mindfulness to observe your experience consciously and maintain emotional balance; observing the pressure to manage the other person’s emotions, to suppress your emotions, or to fix the situation or the other person.

3. Express how you feel and then let go. Expressing how you feel or what you want as calmly and non-judgmentally as possible, enjoying that action of expressing yourself and then letting go of any expectation that they’ll hear you, respond in a satisfactory way, or change.

2. Focusing on the outcome, not the relationship. Ask yourself what you really want to get out of the interaction with this person and create a specific and achievable goal that doesn’t rely on the other person being more empathetic or attuned than they’re capable of. Perhaps your goal will be to express your feelings (even if the other person doesn’t understand them) or to establish a boundary.

3. Managing, not engaging. Instead of emotionally engaging with this person, set a goal of managing the conversation by staying on topic, setting a time limit to the discussion, and being persistent in addressing the central concern as many times as it takes, bringing the conversation back from attempts to divert and avoid.

4. Treat the other person nicely, but don’t bleed for them.

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