Let’s face it – from where you sit, it really is all about you. Same here. That’s not narcissism or a lack of empathy – because the degree to which you’re able to feel empathy and genuinely care about other people is a big part of what makes you you. And if you’re a reasonably empathetic person, reading some anecdote here about me, my life, my experience – odds are, you can relate to some or all of it. You can extrapolate, apply your own experiences and emotions, and “get” where I’m coming from, even if our life experiences are vastly different.
If I say that a loved one has died, and you say that you’ve experienced the death of a loved one and know how I feel, I’m not going to get angry and say, “How dare you! You can’t possibly know how I feel!” (Just don’t use the word “exactly” before “how you feel” and it’s all good.) I might roll my eyes if you compare how you feel about the death of a beloved pet to how someone feels about the death of a child, but I do know people who love their pets that much, or certainly think that they do – and as insensitive as they may sound in trying to draw such parallels, I’m pretty sure they have an inkling of how bad it feels, and they mean well. If they share their experiences, they’re not necessarily trying to focus the conversation on them, either – they’re trying to explain their frame of reference, to share why they think they “get it,” and to maybe establish a little credibility.
I tend to forget there are people out there who really can’t draw those kinds of inferences – who see the world much more narrowly and literally. Like one former classmate...read more...
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