Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

Empathic or arrogant?

It appears that, at times, when trying to be empathic we may instead display a kind of inadvertent arrogance.

This is represented in an oft used statement which, on the face of it,  may seem perfectly reasonable. It can tend to trip off the tongue when another person is upset or distressed by something.

So, what is the statement in question?

“I know how you feel”

I suggest that nobody on the planet can claim they know how someone else is feeling. Goodness knows, I have a tough enough time trying to work out my own feelings on occasion, let alone manage to get a fix on the true feelings of others around me!

To be fair, I do recognise the intention behind these words as a desire to help, to offer some reassurance and succour, yet it runs great risk of not landing with the other person or even backfiring.

The best we can do is to try and imagine how the other person might feel in the circumstances or offer up something quite general about how such an event might leave us feeling:

“I can only imagine how that might feel”

“ I know I’d feel really angry in such circumstances”

But to suggest we can climb into another human being’s psyche and take an accurate reading is, at best, utterly presumptuous.

That’s where I am on this one, I can only guess how you might feel about it.

One Response to “Empathic or arrogant?”

  1. I knew what the statement was before I got down to it. I have had people say that to me who haven’t even experienced what happened to me. It would be far better if people said nothing rather than that. A good thing about it is, I know I will never say that to anyone, even if I have had a similar experience. It can never be the same. I would have thought most people would realise that though.

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