I want to start this off by saying there are plenty of times that I’m insensitive. Not on purpose of course, but being human and such, it happens. Also I’m not a naturally curious person. I listen, but I don’t ask a lot of questions. I leave it up to people to tell me what they want me to know, and I take it all in like a tape recorder, but you’ll rarely hear me ask for additional details beyond what you offer up. Maybe because I myself am a private person and therefore don’t want to be one who pries. Also, I am a very particular person and can be a little judgy sometimes when people don’t do something the way I think it ought to be done. These thoughts often I keep to myself, but I admit it, I have them.
Ok, now that I’ve said all of that I think I can let the pendulum swing the other way and I can admit that I mysteriously absorbed a big dose of empathy regarding the way I deal with people. I think it stemmed from the strong desire I have to feel understood – perhaps, I’d say, stronger than most people feel that need. And if I want so badly to be understood, then the best way to put that into motion is to be understanding toward others. So somehow it became this thing where it’s easy for me to say things, to myself or out loud, like, “it’s impossible to know where that person is coming from.” ”We’re all broken. I don’t know what her demons are.” ”Some people approach things differently than I do, and that’s ok.”
If you have a conversation with me in which we’re discussing another person, it’s likely I will end up putting myself in that third party’s shoes, because I know the feeling of being criticized by people who don’t know. (Of course, I’m plenty guilty of the opposite on occasion as well.)
I think the thing that scares me the most about imagining myself in a serious relationship slash marriage is that even “unified,” you’re still two people coming from two different ways of thinking, with two different sets of battle wounds and two different agendas. Of course, I wouldn’t commit to someone who didn’t have an agenda that matched mine in many ways, but there is no perfect version of this. And that scares me. That’s where I hope my empathy can kick in and I can find myself understanding that person’s differences, even if I don’t agree with them, and that the relationship can work and be for the most part happy and a lot of fun.
My goals are to be more courageous about this, knowing a relationship won’t be perfect and that I won’t be perfect but to love and be loved I have to be brave. I have to allow myself to make mistakes. Also I want to ask more questions. Let’s start now:
In what situations do you find it hard to be empathetic? When do you find it easy? Are any of your goals or resolutions to change the way you think about or deal with people?