Friday, October 2, 2009

A Lesson in Empathy

I was crying the other day to my guyfriend and saying that I do not want to have to live in this apartment. He held me as I was crying and said, "You have to, you have no choice." I did not find this comment comforting (sorry Guyfriend if you are reading this). To tell me the obvious is not helpful. I already know I do not have another living option. What would have been a more empathic/helpful reply? Try one of the following:

1. "I am so sorry you are feeling this way."
2. "Tell me more about how you're feeling."
3. "This must be hard for you."

I think back to those early days after my husband's death when I would say, "I just want him back" or "I just want my old life back." I would get the same reply as guyfriend's - "He is not coming back. Your old life is over. You have to move on... You have no choice." Of course I knew all of that already. Substitute any of the three replies above and I would have felt a little better. My situation would have been the same but at least I'd have felt that someone was trying to understand me and offering some real compassion.


  1. a. people can be such idiots. b. idiots can present behavior that is so obtuse that it can clearly be defined as mean c. all mean people suck therefore, d. people suck. (can i use that word here without getting into trouble by the thought police?) but you can see the rise in percentages for your chances to be dealt a thoughtlessly cruel swipe. it's not a pretty picture.

    so what did you tell your guy friend as a response? did you tell him he sucked in the compassion department? and if your guy friend accepts your apology, then he really sucks. i'm looking for my Big Book of Life that everyone gets when they're born so they know how to act...........oh, wait. we don't get one. that's why the made that one rule. The Golden Rule. that "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" rule that it seems your guy friend ignored. but rule book or not, i don't think you have to apologize for getting your feelings hurt. it doesn't make sense.

    let's look at it, shall we? =o) 1. you are sad. 2. you express said sadness to someone you felt you could trust. 3. he snapped back with an off-the-cuff, don't-rain-on-my-parade, let's-not-go-into-this kind of remark which was not something a true friend would do. 4. and you think you need to apologize to him for posting that it hurt your already traumatized feelings? nope. doesn't make sense.

    i think i've read that you have other friends besides this guy. beyond sharpening your verbal abuse skills on him, i'd keep him at arms length. " just my opinion. i could be wrong."

    hoping you have better, easier days ahead.

  2. wNs - I don't think he was intentionally being mean or thoughtless - he falls into the category of all people who just can't imagine the deep pain we are in and say the first thing that comes to mind. As you pointed out, (with humor & wit) we don't get a rule book and so many people out there don't know what to say in ANY situation much less a difficult one.

  3. I think you need to get some new friends, hon. :-)

    Really really.