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How to lose anybody’s sympathy

We all need a good sympathizer from time to time. Someone who can help us find our way back towards the light when our vision has become obscured. Below are two statements, with descriptions of the underlying attitudes they stem from, that you may want to avoid when you complain to others or request their help.

1. “You don’t understand”

None of our experiences are identical.

Everyone understands human suffering in their own unique terms.

When you say, “you don’t understand”, you alienate people by dismissing the terms in which they understand suffering as illegitimate.

While your problem(s) may be unique, the chances are also pretty high that the person you’re confiding in has experienced some form of trouble that YOU can’t understand.

If you want someone to be there for you during a time of need, don’t put them on the defense by insinuating naïveté on their part.

It’s a distraction that does nothing more than feed your ego while depriving you of the opportunity to draw wisdom and strength from another person’s experience.

We may be saddened and frightened by different things, but the sensation of searching for answers in the dark is the emotional equalizer that unites us all.

Nobody has a monopoly on frustrated desires, broken dreams, and contradicted expectations.

People don’t need to have gone through all the various nuances of your specific situation in order to know what it means to have their hearts ripped out and their hats handed to them.

Life isn’t a contest to see who has more challenges. Let people connect with you in the best way THEY can and be thankful for that.

2. “That doesn’t help”

Listening to someone complain is ALWAYS an act of courtesy on behalf of the listener, whether they are a good sport about it or not.

Therapist charge you to do that and your friends have the right, whether you like it or not, to refer you to a therapist when you complain.

So, if they decide to listen, ALWAYS thank them for doing so.

By making them feel appreciated for their efforts, you make it easier for them to help you in the future.

Most people actually enjoy helping others. It’s built into our system.

Helping others only gets tiring when we feel like we’re unappreciated or ineffective.

Telling someone, “you’re not helping me” or “that doesn’t help” after you requested their help just sounds ungrateful and close-minded.

Instead, try thanking them for taking the time to listen. Express appreciation for the fact that they tried to help. Then, tell them you’ll think about what they said and leave it at that.

If you don’t like their advice, you can leave them alone and ask someone else. If you think they can still help, then politely let them know that their suggestion doesn’t work for you AFTER you thank them for doing you the favor of trying to help. Then, ask if they have a different approach that might suit you more.

I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of the venting/advice-seeking process and these are a couple of things I’ve picked up along the way. It’s not the absolute truth. It’s T.K. two cents and I hope it helps.

Feel free to add to it or subtract from it in accordance with your own tastes.


T.K. Coleman

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