Why we should all stop saying “I know exactly how you feel”

Copyright : adamgregor

I absolutely love this article by Celeste Headlee, which is why I am posting this again on my blogsite.

If you’ve ever just wanted to vent about something in your life that was aggravating you, only to be told by someone, “Oh yes, I know EXACTLY how you feel!”, then endure their recollection of an incident which they believe mimicked yours? Basically, such a reaction flips the focus of the conversation to the other person and diminishes the significance of your experience.

Undoubtedly some of you do this, and you feel that you are being empathetic or helpful, when in reality you are forcing people to listen to your story, while you drown out what they have to say. It can often appear as if you are one-upping the other person with your woeful experiences, even though you honestly believe that you are helping.

Here’s the original article, copied and pasted here for you to read. You can also visit the link directly at:
Why we should all stop saying “I know exactly how you feel”

Why we should all stop saying “I know exactly how you feel”
Sep 21, 2017 / Celeste Headlee

You don’t. And you’re also steering the focus away from someone who probably just wants to be heard. Here’s how to be a more considerate conversation partner, says radio host and writer Celeste Headlee.

A good friend of mine lost her dad some years back. I found her sitting alone outside our workplace, just staring at the horizon. She was absolutely distraught, and I didn’t know what to say to her. It’s so easy to say the wrong thing to someone who is grieving and vulnerable.

So I started talking about how I grew up without a father. I told her my dad had drowned in a submarine when I was only nine months old and I’d always mourned his loss, even though I’d never known him. I wanted her to realize that she wasn’t alone, that I’d been through something similar and I could understand how she felt.

But after I related this story, my friend snapped, “Okay, Celeste, you win. You never had a dad and I at least got to spend 30 years with mine. You had it worse. I guess I shouldn’t be so upset that my dad just died.”

I was stunned and mortified. “No, no, no,” I said, “that’s not what I’m saying at all. I just meant I know how you feel.”

And she answered, “No, Celeste, you don’t. You have no idea how I feel.”

Often subtle and unconscious, conversational narcissism is the desire to do most of the talking and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself.

She walked away and I stood there feeling like a jerk. I had wanted to comfort her and, instead, I’d made her feel worse. When she began to share her raw emotions, I felt uncomfortable so I defaulted to a subject with which I was comfortable: myself. She wanted to talk about her father, to tell me about the kind of man he was. She wanted to share her cherished memories. Instead, I asked her to listen to my story.

From that day forward, I started to notice how often I responded to stories of loss and struggle with stories of my own experiences. My son would tell me about clashing with a kid in Boy Scouts, and I would talk about a girl I fell out with in college. When a coworker got laid off, I told her about how much I struggled to find a job after I had been laid off years earlier. But when I began to pay more attention, I realized the effect of sharing my experiences was never as I intended. What all of these people needed was for me to hear them and acknowledge what they were going through. Instead, I forced them to listen to me.

Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency as “conversational narcissism.” Often subtle and unconscious, it’s the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking, and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself. Derber writes that it “is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America.”

He describes two kinds of responses in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts attention back to yourself, and the second supports the other person’s comment.

Example number 1:

The shift response
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Me, too. I’m totally overwhelmed.

The support response
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Why? What do you have to get done?

Example number 2:

The shift response
Karen: I need new shoes.
Mark: Me, too. These things are falling apart.

The support response
Karen: I need new shoes.
Mark: Oh yeah? What kind are you thinking about?

Shift responses are a hallmark of conversational narcissism — they help you turn the focus constantly back to yourself. But a support response encourages the other person to continue their story. It lets them know you’re listening and interested in hearing more.

We can craftily disguise our attempts to shift focus — we might start a sentence with a supportive remark and then follow up with a comment about ourselves.

The game of catch is often used as a metaphor for conversation. In an actual game of catch, you’re forced to take turns. But in conversation, we often find ways to resist giving someone else a turn. Sometimes, we use passive means to subtly grab control of the exchange.

This tug-of-war over attention is not always easy to track. We can very craftily disguise our attempts to shift focus. We might start a sentence with a supportive comment, and then follow up with a comment about ourselves. For instance, if a friend tells us they just got a promotion, we might respond by saying, “That’s great! Congratulations. I’m going to ask my boss for a promotion, too. I hope I get it.”

Such a response could be fine, as long as we allow the focus to shift back to the other person again. However, the healthy balance is lost when we repeatedly shine the attention back on ourselves.

While reciprocity is an important part of any meaningful conversation, the truth is shifting the attention to our own experiences is completely natural. Modern humans are hardwired to talk about themselves more than any other topic. One study found that “most social conversation time is devoted to statements about the speaker’s own emotional experiences and/or relationships, or those of third parties not present.”

The insula, an area of the brain deep inside the cerebral cortex, takes in the information that people tell us and then tries to find a relevant experience in our memory banks that can give context to the information. It’s mostly helpful: the brain is trying to make sense of what we hear and see. Subconsciously, we find similar experiences and add them to what’s happening at the moment, and then the whole package of information is sent to the limbic regions, the part of the brain just below the cerebrum. That’s where some trouble can arise — instead of helping us better understand someone else’s experience, our own experiences can distort our perceptions of what the other person is saying or experiencing.

The more comfortable you are, the more difficult it is to empathize with the suffering of another.

A study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences suggests that our egos distort our perception of our empathy. When participants watched a video of maggots in a group setting, they could understand that other people might be repulsed by it. But if one person was shown pictures of puppies while the others were shown the maggot video, the puppy viewer generally underestimated the rest of the group’s negative reaction to the maggots.

Study author Dr. Tania Singer observed, “The participants who were feeling good themselves assessed their partners’ negative experiences as less severe than they actually were. In contrast, those who had just had an unpleasant experience assessed their partners’ good experience less positively.” In other words, we tend to use our own feelings to determine how others feel.

Here’s how that translates to your daily conversations: Let’s say you and a friend are both laid off at the same time by the same company. In that case, using your feelings as a measure of your friend’s feelings may be fairly accurate because you’re experiencing the same event. But what if you’re having a great day and you meet a friend who was just laid off? Without knowing it, you might judge how your friend is feeling against your good mood. She’ll say, “This is awful. I’m so worried that I feel sick to my stomach.” You’d respond, “Don’t worry, you’ll be okay. I was laid off six years ago and everything turned out fine.” The more comfortable you are, the more difficult it is to empathize with the suffering of another.

It took me years to realize I was much better at the game of catch than I was at its conversational equivalent. Now I try to be more aware of my instinct to share stories and talk about myself. I try to ask questions that encourage the other person to continue. I’ve also made a conscious effort to listen more and talk less.

Recently, I had a long conversation with a friend who was going through a divorce. We spent almost 40 minutes on the phone, and I barely said a word. At the end of our call, she said, “Thank you for your advice. You’ve really helped me work some things out.”

The truth is, I hadn’t offered any advice. Most of what I said was a version of “That sounds tough. I’m sorry this is happening to you.” She didn’t need advice or stories from me. She just needed to be heard.

Excerpted from the new book We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. © 2017 Celeste Headlee.

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Move Like A Child

Copyright : maximkabb (courtesy of 123RF.com)

Have you ever given any thought to how children move? The most fidgety of kids will move constantly, and will exhibit a freedom of movement. Children as a whole are far more active and naturally athletic than most adults. Movements such as swaying from side to side, swinging arms, fidgeting, jumping, and skipping are all the dominion of the child. Ordinarily, if an adult dares to move in that manner, he or she would be regarded, and often rightly so, as bonkers.

So what happens to an adult when he or she is allowed to move freely like a child, allowing whatever impulse emerges to direct movement of body parts?

There is one yoga instructor at the yoga studio I frequent who has a habit of encouraging the students to move and shake their limbs, wiggle their hips, and just let loose during one portion of her kundalini yoga class. Do students feel silly when they begin to move? Absolutely. Does everyone begin to enjoy the freedom that such movements can confer on the body, mind and spirit? Oh yes. It is incredibly liberating to be able to shake it like you just don’t care, all in a comfortable and non-judgmental environment.

I think the next best thing to being in a kundalini yoga class with a cool yogi like the one I mentioned, would be to take a dance class, or take part in freestyle dancing at a local club. It’s a great way to de-stress and have fun in the process.

Overcoming The Daily Grind: How Women Can Focus On Their Health

Photo via Pixabay by Stocksnap

Attention ladies…how can you focus on yourself in the midst of a hectic lifestyle? Read on to see what Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com has to say!

– By Sheila Olson

For many women, finding the time to focus on their overall well-being can be a challenge. Busy work schedules, spending time with family, and personal projects can sometimes prevent us from taking the time we need to take care of our bodies and minds, leaving us feeling exhausted and without the defenses we need to stay healthy. While having a routine can be a great thing, it can also become monotonous, leaving you with the feeling of being stuck in that “daily grind” everyone talks about.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to boost your health and overall well-being without sacrificing the time you need to spend on other things. Making small changes to your lifestyle and routine will help you boost your energy, immune system and self-esteem, all while ensuring that you stay efficient and productive.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to get started.

Ask for help

No matter how productive you are, there’s just no way you can do everything by yourself, so don’t even try! Ask for help now and then, especially when it comes to managing your time. Not only will this help you get everything done, it will reduce stress at the same time. Think about the small things that will have a big impact, such as delegating chores to the kids or hiring a dogwalker to take care of your pup while you focus on other things.


Get in a daily workout

It may seem easier said than done, but it’s actually not that hard to fit in a workout if you know where to look. Many people think that their exercise routine needs to be done in a gym, for at least an hour at a time, with fancy equipment and gear, but the truth is, you can break up your workout into two fifteen-minute increments and get some nice results. You can also try yoga or simply use the tools you have around you including stairs instead of heading to the gym.

Eat well-balanced meals

Eating healthy isn’t always easy when you have a packed schedule; many women find themselves settling for fast food or even finishing what’s left on their child’s plate rather than making something good for themselves. If time is an issue, consider preparing some healthy meals ahead of time such as on a Sunday night and freezing them for the week. It will also help to keep quick, easy foods like pre-mixed salad, fruit, granola and oatmeal at the ready so you can make a healthy meal even when you don’t have much time.

Fuel up at work

When you spend long hours at the office, it can be hard to focus on your needs. Schedule breaks in which you can meditate, read a good book, go for a walk around the block, or eat a healthy snack. This will not only help you stay physically healthy, but mentally as well.

Getting over the daily grind and focusing on yourself is a must in today’s busy world. No matter what kind of job you have, or what responsibilities await you at home, it’s important to remember that your health matters. Find small ways to reduce stress as much as possible, and don’t forget to ask for help! Learn to say no if it takes away from some much-needed self-care; you’ll thank yourself later.

Sex After 40

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

The Shifting Tide

Those of you about to turn the corner and enter the 40 and over zone may be concerned about the impact that getting older will have on your sex life. You may have questions about whether you must resign yourself to becoming a dried-up old lady, with no fun to be had in the bedroom. Thankfully, the reality is that you can have more fulfilling and enjoyable sex than you had in your 20’s or 30’s.

What’s more, society has gotten wind of the idea that people want to live completely fulfilled lives into their advanced years. It’s true that 40 has become the new 20, and the concept is supported by empowered celebrities like J. Lo proclaiming their eternal youth and sexual vitality without shame. So instead of allowing the aging process to shut you down, it’s time to look forward to a new and more sexually fulfilling chapter in your life.

Why Getting Older Is Great For Your Sex Life

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade the knowledge and life experience I obtained over my 52 years on the planet to return to my 20’s, because aging has positively impacted every aspect of my life, including what happens behind closed doors. With age comes acceptance of who we are, body flaws and all. Let’s face it, we accumulate stretch marks, cellulite, scars, etc. over time, all of which could send us into a meltdown if we stressed out about them. We have become more comfortable with who we are, which translates to greater body confidence. That body confidence works to our advantage in the bedroom, because we no longer feel uneasy or ashamed of how we look sans clothing. When we are comfortable naked, we can finally relax and enjoy intimate encounters to the fullest.

A woman in her 40’s or 50’s is less likely to take desperate measures to entice her man, such as dressing up in sexy but uncomfortable lingerie, or wearing a pair of high heels guaranteed to aggravate her plantar fasciitis or her bad back. In contrast, it seems there are plenty of women in younger age brackets who follow ridiculous wardrobe guidelines to garner the attention of potential sex partners or followers on social media channels. A woman in her 40’s of beyond doesn’t have the inclination to make a fool out of herself to guarantee a romp in the bedroom. She is older, wiser, and doesn’t have time for such nonsense. She doesn’t feel like she needs to try so hard to win her partner’s favor. Her attitude tends to be more along the lines of, “This is what I got, take it or leave it.” Besides, I am willing to bet that such an attitude is far sexier to a man these days. In addition, most men tend to be more excited about the notion of getting you naked, and once you are in the buff, they aren’t scrutinizing your body for flaws.

Older women are also less selfish in bed, and bolder about declaring what they want. They know their bodies, their likes and dislikes. If single, they are more discerning about how they procure partners, so they are less likely to engage in risky activities which expose them to sexually transmitted diseases. For older women in a relationship, there is a greater likelihood that they have been with the same partner for many years, and have developed a level of intimacy which only comes from a longer term committed relationship. A 40-something woman is usually confident enough to turn to her partner and say, “I really like it when you use your hands on me more”, and not fret about whether her partner will accept her sexual preferences.

Chances are that for older women, there are far fewer household distractions which can impede the natural progression of an afternoon of flirting into a full-blown lovemaking session. Such interludes are pretty much impossible if a baby is crying, or young children are demanding attention. Once children have become old enough to be relatively independent, say from pre-teens on, there may be more opportunities to roll around in the sheets with your partner without any interruptions. That kind of freedom can result in more spontaneous sexual encounters and greater satisfaction.

For those past menopause, Aunt Flo’s monthly visit no longer interferes with any amorous advances. Furthermore, there is no concern about getting pregnant and having an unplanned family addition. It’s incredibly liberating.

Sexual Issues and Aging

Though I have painted a rosy picture of the sex life of older women, there are some issues which can interfere with optimal sexual activity. However, this doesn’t mean that all women over 40 will experience sexual dysfunction. As geriatric psychiatrist and Caring.com senior editor Ken Robbins states, “Impaired sexuality and sexual function aren’t normal consequences of aging.” (https://www.caring.com/articles/sexless-after-40).

Women can experience symptoms of perimenopause as early as 35, and the diminishing estrogen and progesterone levels can result in vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal mucosa, both of which can make intercourse painful. If this occurs, make sure to obtain a pelvic exam with a physician who can diagnose and treat the condition. In many cases, a lubricant is sufficient, but hormone replacement therapy may be offered as an option as well.

Some women may experience a decrease in sexual desire as they age, but many others experience a surge in libido from the increased testosterone to estrogen ratio, which increases as estrogen levels continue to diminish. The sexual benefits of testosterone are also enhanced by regular weight training, which naturally boosts testosterone levels in the body. However, the ebb and flow of sexual desire often fluctuates more in women over the age of 40, a result of associated dips and surges in hormonal levels. In addition, the hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings associated with plummeting progesterone levels don’t exactly make a woman feel amorous.

If you are a woman over 40 who is experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, such as hot flashes, and they are frequent enough to disrupt your daily life, seek the advice of a physician. During your visit, you may ask if the addition of hormonal support supplements like maca or dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) would be helpful in decreasing the symptoms you are experiencing.
Most importantly, reduce stress in your daily life, get plenty of rest, and communicate with your partner about any sexual concerns you may have.

People Who Say These 5 Words Have Very Low Emotional Intelligence

Please check out the post at:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/mind-and-soul/people-who-say-these-5-words-have-very-low-emotional-intelligence/ar-AAyz0K5?ocid=spartanntp

I have copied and pasted the article here for you for convenience.

Who agrees with Bill Murphy’s assessment? Who disagrees?

Most people would probably agree with both Bill Murphy and Justin Bariso, and bristle when someone makes the statement, “I know how you feel.” No one truly knows how you feel, because your experience is unique and important. Such a statement does nothing to communicate empathy, but instead alienates the listener. Remember that sharing your particular experience in an effort to comfort the other person detracts from his or her own experience. It’s best to either keep your mouth shut, or just say, “I’m sorry that happened.” Be an ear to bend, not a barometer by which the other person must measure his or her own troubling experience.

By Bill Murphy Jr. of Inc.

They mean the exact opposite of what you think. But only emotionally intelligent people understand why.

The words hit me like a hurricane: “I know how you feel.”

They’re right there on pages 80 and 81 of my colleague Justin Bariso’s new book about emotional intelligence. They’re simple words, and real–and yet as Justin writes, they’re also absolutely the wrong thing to say to those who confide in you with their problems or fears.

These situations are tough, sometimes. You’ve been trusted. You want to develop rapport. You want to act the way somebody with real emotional intelligence would act.

You want to help.

Yet, rather than creating a connection, “I know how you feel” and other phrases like it build a wall between you and the other person.

The phrase suggests that you don’t truly understand what the other person feels at all. (Really, how could you?) It suggests that you feel the need to turn the conversation toward your experience, not his or hers, and that ultimately you don’t really care about that person’s concerns after all.

In other words, this five-word phrase sends a message that’s 100 percent the opposite of what you intend.

So don’t say, “I know how you feel.” Here’s what to do instead.

Shift vs. support

If you’ve read this far, I suspect you really do care about people. But like me perhaps, you don’t always realize the true effects of your words.

The solution, as sociologist Charles Derber suggests, and Celeste Headlee summarizes, is to gauge your responses in real time, and ask yourself whether you’re offering a “shift response” or a “support response.”

What’s the difference?

A shift response involves an attempt to guide the conversation toward your life experiences, and away from the experiences of the person you’re ostensibly listening to and perhaps even trying to help.

A support response sets aside your ego, and instead keeps the focus on the other person’s feelings and experience.

Conversational narcissism

A few examples will make this very clear. In each case below, just imagine that a friend or colleague opens a conversation with the highlighted statement. Then think about how each response would make him or her feel.

1. “My boss doesn’t respect me.”

Shift response: “I went through the exact same thing last year. I wound up leaving and finding a better job.”

Support response: “I’m sorry to hear that. What makes you feel that way?”

2. “If I could just get organized, I’d have the world on a string.”

Shift response: “I know–I have the same problem.”

Support response: “What do you think stops you from being organized?”

3. “I’m so sad since my breakup.”

Shift response: “You just need to get back out there and start dating again.”

Support response: “What do you think stops you from being able to move forward?”

Derber calls the whole phenomenon, at least the part in which well-meaning people shift the discussion to their own experience, “conversational narcissism.”

Is that a $20 phrase to describe a $1 problem? Maybe. But it does make it clear.

“I can imagine…”

As Justin puts it in his book, the successful strategy to communicate effectively and leverage emotional intelligence requires avoiding phrases like these:

“I know exactly how you feel.”

“I’ve been through this before.”

“I completely understand; or, I get it.”

And replacing them instead with things like the following:

“I’m sorry that happened.”

“I can imagine how you may feel.”

“Thanks for sharing this. Tell me more.”

Actually, I might take issue even with “I can imagine how you may feel.” But we’ll leave it in.

Just remember that the whole point here is to acknowledge how hard it is to really put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and instead make clear that you have empathy.

You’re trying to understand–even as you acknowledge that full success might not ever be possible. The true connection that you’re both looking for comes with the well-communicated attempt.

What If It All Shuts Down?

Ever since we hit the era of Google and the information superhighway, we have become as spoiled as fattened swine on the plethora of technology which swarms around us constantly. It’s been an interesting study in contrasts for me, because I spent my childhood without any of the fancy technological bells and whistles which earmark the new millennium. I remember making and receiving phone calls on a beige rotary dial phone, and if I didn’t want to talk to someone, I just left the receiver off the cradle. Now THAT was call blocking! We didn’t even have the luxury of answering machines back in those days. And tooling around on personal computers wasn’t part of our daily routine either.

Now we have personal computers which are so handy that we carry them around in the form of laptops, tablets, and cell phones. We navigate via global satellite, search for factoids via Google or Bing, and pretty much have the world quite literally in the palms of our hands.

Yet what happens when a phone runs out of battery power, or if a power outage threatens to shut us down? The thought honestly makes me shudder, and is part of the reason why I will never take the advice of my sister and digitize all of the photos from my photo albums (I have 39 photo albums, mostly from my mother’s photo collection), then destroy the original photos to save space in my home. Yes, a fire could destroy those photos, but I am not too keen on the idea of storing images on a disk or hard drive and relying on a computer whenever I want to view those images.

Today’s society is so image-driven, yet who is bothering to save these captures in a precious archive? Though I have a habit of printing out images from important events (like birthdays and holidays), I’m sure I am in the minority. I have also noticed that there are some online searches I have conducted which are later deleted or moved, so the information is forever lost. Maybe I’m old school, but there’s something to be said about holding onto an item, whether it be a printed photo, a printout of a Google search, or financial documents.

Another Annual Orphan Thanksgiving

This year I am upholding my own Thanksgiving tradition with what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving. It is a cozy and enjoyable event for the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityWhat’s on the table this year? Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole (a HUGE hit), mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. I’m letting my guests bring dessert to ease the cooking and baking load, since I make these feasts by myself. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!