Have you had the experience where a friend comes to you for support and you find it quite easy to give it to them? It may not be effortless for you (it’s still labor), but the way your friend shows up with their feelings makes it much easier to offer that labor.
On the flip side, has someone come to you for support and it feels exhausting to give it to them? Has it left you drained and tired and in need of your own support after the interaction?
Emotional labor is work, but the degree of difficulty and positive result from the interaction can vary dramatically. In order to clarify one facet of this dynamic, I started using a metaphor. It’s about potatoes.