Oh, I know how you feel!

We all know them, don’t we? That one person who always knows exactly what you’re going through because they are suffering in the same way or, more often than not, ten times worse (apparently).

You: I have a bit of a cold.
Them: OMG, I’ve had FLU for a month!!

You: I think I’m going to be out a of a job soon.
Them: Oh, tell me about it… I lost my job two months ago and had to get anti-depressants from my doctor because of it.

You: My house burned down and my entire family was killed.
Them: That happened to me the other day and now I’m dead too!

You get the point.

Why does this person do it? Are they genuinely suffering every type of trauma it is possible to bear or is it, as I rather suspect, a way of trying to keep the attention focussed on them at all times? (I don’t suggest that they are aware they are doing this.)

I’m fully aware that it can sometimes be a great help to learn that other people have shared similar experiences, and to share advice and support to help you through the problem and out the other side, but I’m equally aware that what is not helpful is having your own problems belittled by hearing about how much worse the other person’s life is.

I’m also aware that, whatever problem I’m struggling with at any given moment, there will always be someone worse off. One only has to watch the news to see that. But there is always, it seems, someone much closer to home who can trump your problem ten-fold. A colleague, a friend, a family member. Whoever it might be you can guarantee that, whatever you’re going through, their version will be so much worse.

So, I appeal to those people: please stop and think for a moment. Is pointing out that my problem is but a drop in the ocean compared to what you’re going through really going to help me a find a solution or would it be better, perhaps, to simply listen and support me when I tell you I’m struggling with something?

As always with these posts, I will add a little disclaimer to say that I’m not perfect. I’m sure in my time I have been that person who proudly displayed the trump card, but I sincerely hope it has been a rare occurrence, and that it will continue to be so.

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4 thoughts on “Oh, I know how you feel!

  1. I might offer a third option – that comparing experiences, or sharing one’s own traumas that might be similar, can be a way of showing empathy. ie: oh yes, that’s happened to me too so I know something of how you must be feeling..?

    Saying that, I used to know someone who could always trump anything that anyone said..”I tripped over a pebble and fell into a puddle” would be trumped by “Well *I* stumbled over a rock and feel down a cliff into the sea..”

  2. ooo…hate being trumped in a story. makes me feel like what I said wasn’t important. I have a friend, that I do like dearly, but she’s like that.

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