Emotional labour is a skill set. It is work that is supportive, that lifts people up and holds space when things are hard. Often invisible, emotional labour is always working behind the scenes. Foundational to emotional labour is the capacity to listen deeply without trying to fix things; to hold space for people moving through difficult feelings; to offer constructive feedback; to help people feel loved, valued, seen, and cared for. Emotional labour can look like remembering that people need to eat. It can look like making sure a space is clean and ready for work to happen. It can mean being available, showing up, holding someone’s hand, making space for someone’s pain. Sometimes emotional labour takes the form of educating others, of drawing on painful lived experiences to offer up important knowledge. Sometimes it takes the form of creating the conditions for others to speak their truth. For those of us who do emotional labour frequently, we can be very good at it without having ever articulated what it is we are actually doing. It is only when emotional labour fails to happen and things start to fall apart that we begin to notice how essential this work is.
Clementine Morrigan on emotional labor.
The main part of the article is about how to ethically accept, value, and reciprocate the emotional labor of others, and is worth reading in full.