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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Consistency (Updated Post)

As a physician, I am as much a therapist as I am a physical healer, and am well aware of the vital connection between mind, spirit and body. I have also seen how closely linked emotional stress is to development and exacerbation of physical ailments. What concerns me is when people abandon healthy habits during times of adversity, because it is at those times that some structure would provide balance to their lives.

A common question I hear from patients, clients, and strangers I meet is, “How can you maintain a regular exercise schedule and pack your food all the time with your busy careers?”, to which I respond, “I just do it.” Working out and eating right are as essential to me as sleeping and brushing my teeth. It never occurs to me to abandon healthy habits during stressful times. I recently went through a particularly difficult month during which I took a rigorous board certification exam, went through a residential move, and traveled to four destinations (two for my medical career, two for fitness and bodybuilding) over a two week period. Though I didn’t work out my usual six days per week, I did manage to train four to five days per week, every single week. The regular workouts gave me structure and balance which helped me to burn off some of the stress I was under, regulated my sleep cycle, and just plain felt good. In addition, I traveled with clean foods and lots of water, packing them and making sure I stayed on track.

Why would I push myself like this? Because I know that consistency is key to maintaining balance in one’s life. When I am consistent with my workouts and food, I maintain structure and focus and do not allow excuses of an insanely busy schedule to deter me from my mission to live an optimally healthy lifestyle. I know that if I were to deviate from a healthy lifestyle, I wouldn’t have the energy to push through my to-do list, and I certainly wouldn’t be very happy either. No matter whether I am traveling, working, or enjoying a rare free day for myself, I make sure to invest in myself every single day.

When I worked the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, I made sure to drink plenty of water, filling up my one liter container 3 to 4 times each day. I also brought my Hot Logic Mini with me (https://youtu.be/GQltYTRLTC4) and had meals from Icon Meals with me, and I made sure to consume a meal every 3 hours to keep my energy levels up. If you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you will find ways to stay in line!

If you make an investment in yourself by being consistent with your exercise and meal habits, you will be rewarded with greater balance in your life and better health. Don’t you deserve that?

Two Breaths

Regular meditation practice has shaped my life for the past eleven years, and I honor and value all it has bestowed upon me in terms of balance, harmony, calmness and peace. When I began practicing meditation on a consistent basis, I was at a low point in my life as a result of a long-term relationship which had suddenly terminated. As fate would have it, I met a wonderful person who became my meditation teacher, my spiritual guide, and my dear friend. He invited me to become part of a local meditation group which met one to two times per week, and I gladly accepted. Within a couple of months, I began to learn how to sit in silence, let thoughts and feelings go, and focus on being completely in the moment. I quickly realized what a gift it was to fall into awareness during these sessions.

After my meditation teacher passed away in April of 2014, I went through a rough period in which I was so grief-stricken by his death that I was paralyzed, unable to meditate for several months. When I returned to meditation practice, it was alone, without the comfort of a group, but I was able to quickly fall into awareness during my sessions.

At the beginning of this year, I encountered another difficult life challenge, and instead of shying away from my meditation practice, I decided to sit daily. One tool which kept me accountable with daily meditation practice was a phone app called Insight Timer, which I still use. It is no longer a struggle for me to sit daily in meditation, and I have noticed profound changes in my demeanor and my general outlook on life.

In an effort to fortify my spiritual practice, I added kundalini yoga, and have noticed even more profound changes in my energy and my physiology, especially in my breathing. A few days ago, I had noticed that my respiratory rate had become much slower, so I decided to assess it while I practiced relaxation breathing. I was astonished when I discovered that I am now able to slow down my breathing to two respirations per minute. The breaths which I take during meditative and relaxation sessions are very slow, with a pause at the end of both the inhalation and exhalation phases.

Most people are so accustomed to shallow respirations in their daily lives that they assume that 12 to 14 respirations per minute is considered acceptable. As a physician, I regularly encounter a respiratory rate in that range, and am trained to consider that normal. However, in my spiritual practice, I know that in order to take 12 to 14 breaths per minute, the breaths tend to be quite shallow.

Modern society keeps us on the hamster wheel and fosters anxiety, but it is vital to step off the wheel, slow down, and allow the trappings of daily life to fall away so that we can truly let go. If you find yourself constantly wound up, try slowing down your breathing on a consistent basis. It has beneficial effects on your mood and blood pressure, and decreases muscle tension.

Shut Up, I’m Trying to Concentrate! (Revised Repost)

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There are times when I need absolute silence in order to concentrate. Since I spend a lot of time at home writing, I deal with the constant challenges of coming up with new material, and allowing the creative process of writing to develop. Perhaps the most distracting thing I face when I am trying to focus is NOISE. Whether the noise is from people talking to each other, exercise equipment banging against the floor, car horns blaring, cats playing, doors opening or closing, or people constantly trying to talk to me, any noise except music will get me to the point where I get close to losing it. I am well aware of the fact that I suffer from misophonia, and have dealt with it since med school days, when I had to wear earbuds whenever I sat for exams.

I recently read that a group of psychologists at Northwestern University discovered that highly creative people tend to be more sensitive to noise than the average person. I digested this information with relish, since I certainly hope the fact that I can be easily annoyed by noise when I am in a creative mode is indicative of creative genius, or at least something close! The assertion that creative types are more easily distracted by noise is demonstrated by great novelists like Proust, who apparently would sequester himself in his small apartment, donning earplugs and drawing the blinds while he wrote.

Cat shutting dog up

Basically, I think the general rule of thumb should be that if someone tells you to pipe down, and the person is clearly trying to focus, then SHUT UP!

How Social Media Has Messed Us Up

The majority of us can’t even imagine being without our cell phones. The relatively tiny devices we carry around with us now function as GPS devices, marvelous computers which connect us to every part of the world, tie us into a massive information network which we have become entirely reliant on, and also happen to function as the basic communication aids which were originally invented by Italian inventor Antonio Meucci in 1849 (Alexander Graham Bell won the credit in 1876 as a result of winning the first U.S. patent).

Cell phones have become a necessity in modern society, but they have also caused us to develop compulsive behaviors which feed into the irresistible distraction which they present. Though you may deny it, I am willing to bet that you experience a certain level of anxiety if your cell phone battery power winds down, if you lose reception, if you lose a Wifi signal, or are somehow locked out of a website you need to access immediately. We have become so reliant on the immediate gratification which comes with doing a Google search on our Smartphones or iPhones that we have turned into petulant children when glitches occur. We are so dependent on our cellular devices that they have become security blankets.

Whether we like it or not, our reliance on cellular technology makes us less productive and less attentive to ordinary daily tasks. We could be sitting at work, cooking a meal, walking our dogs, or driving to work, while still concerned about what supposedly vital information we are missing by not staring at our phones. God forbid we miss our friends’ Facebook updates or allow our email inboxes to pile up as we try to navigate through a typical day! We are accustomed to having our phones close by at all times, and every time it makes a notification sound, we stop what we are doing to attend to our phones, which draws attention away from what we should really be focused on. Time ticks by, and suddenly, we are distracted from viewing a beautiful sunset. Even if we view that beautiful sunset, we tend to feel a compulsion to record the sunset by taking a picture of it with those confounded phones.

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

It’s no wonder that the incidence of anxiety in our society has increased dramatically.

There should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. Be sure to set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media, then PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. Trust me, your brain needs a break from the constant influx of technology.

Another disturbing reality about our attachment to cell phones is the false sense of community we feel as a result of social media notifications and texts. The perception is that we are part of a vast network, but the ironic thing is that we tend to access our cell phones while alone. This isolation from actual interaction can actually trigger loneliness and depression. From the moment we wake up until we rest our heads to sleep, our cell phones are always on. They even serve as our alarm clocks now!

Being Spontaneous Is Good For The Soul

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Most people who know me well would describe me as pretty organized and on top of things. I am also so busy all the time that I honestly have to put everything in my calendar so that I know what is happening. As a result of having so much on my plate, I am rarely able to make last minute plans. I often give people the impression that I am all work and no play, and that I am always serious.

But I am a spunky one and thrive on variety. Though I like consistency and stability, I am always keen on new adventures, and much like a horse in a corral, I go a bit stir crazy when I am cooped up in a place or a situation for too long. As a result, the spontaneous part of me sometimes takes over, and I will do something out of character. I honestly wish I had more of a chance to do something on a moment’s notice, but I am a grownup, with a career and some pretty big goals which require my focus and attention.

Every once in a while, I have to contend with last minute schedule changes which usually make me feel anxious. It is pretty challenging for me to have to completely rearrange my schedule when one event shifts, because a domino effect occurs. However, I have been more adaptable in recent weeks, and have even found myself changing things up without having a compulsion to resist the changes. Instead of rushing home after work to do even more work, I have recently allowed myself to visit friends, lounge on the sofa with a cat or two, or take myself out to dinner after a particularly long day.

I also love finding a gap in my schedule and throwing a weekend getaway into the mix, because it enables me to recharge my batteries, escape the rhythm of my regular schedule, and have a little fun. There is also a part of me which yearns for international travel, so much so that I am willing to move everything around to accommodate a visit to another country. My attitude is that life is short, and that you only live once. I have no intention of waiting until the “perfect” time to travel or take a vacation, especially since I was stuck in that mindset for far too long during my 20’s and 30’s. If I can visit a different country ever year or so, I will be a happy camper.

Who knows, you might see me visiting a new country very soon!

Willpower

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Please check out my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/willpower/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Tempted Then, Tempted Now

Are you able to resist temptation, or do you cave in when something irresistible beckons? Scientists state that the level of willpower we have as children extends into adulthood, particularly in emotionally charged situations. A famous test, conducted in 1970 by psychologist Walter Mischel, measured willpower in preschoolers by offering them a marshmallow, then informing them that they could either consume it immediately, or wait 15 minutes, in which case they would receive a second marshmallow. Almost 70 percent of the children opted for immediate gratification, while those who were willing to wait showed greater self-control which continued throughout their lives. This study was followed up in 2011 by B.J. Casey at Cornell University, who assessed self-control in nearly 60 subjects from the initial study. Subjects with low self-control as children still had low self-control as adults, while those with greater willpower exhibited the same self-discipline in adulthood. In addition, those with more willpower had higher SAT test scores than their impatient fellow subjects.

When Emotions Are Involved

An interesting feature about the differences in willpower in Casey’s study is that they emerged when there was an emotional component to the situation. Through neuroimaging techniques, Casey examined brain activity in subjects while they tried to ignore photos of happy faces. Subjects with less willpower had stronger activity in the ventral striatum, which is involved in processing rewards and positive social cues, while those with more willpower had more activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with impulse control. Casey concluded that individuals use their brains differently when challenged to practice self-control.

Can You Strengthen Willpower?

It may be pure torture to deal with the internal conflict of wanting that piece of cake and knowing that you are better off avoiding it, especially as the day wears on. That is because willpower seems to be a finite resource which is zapped by trying to control your temper or ignore distractions while you are at work. Any sort of decision-making process also saps us of our willpower stores. Luckily, there is a large body of research which suggests that willpower can be strengthened like a muscle, simply by training oneself regularly. You can start willpower training by redirecting your thoughts and avoiding triggers which tempt you.