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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My International Travel Promise To Myself

Copyright : Sebastien Decoret

Back in 2014, I made a promise to myself that I would visit a foreign country, preferably one I had not visited before, every even-numbered year. I designated every even year primarily as a means to give myself enough time to prepare my schedule and my finances to be able to travel every other year, and I also chose that interval because I felt a strong itch to visit a foreign country in 2014.

Why was I struck with this idea in 2014? One reason was that I suddenly realized that year that I had not taken a bona fide vacation since 2007. The second and more compelling reason stemmed from deep conversations I had with my dear friend and meditation teacher, who was quickly succumbing to a very aggressive and deadly brain tumor. On more than one occasion during my visits with him, he told me, “Don’t wait to do the things you have always wanted to do, because you might run out of time to do them.”

What Rob told me really got me thinking. I thought of how my mom had a number of big dreams dashed because she had always pushed them to the side, believing that she either didn’t deserve to pursue them, or that her dreams would never come to fruition. For example, she had entertained a strong interest in travel, but she always made excuses for why she couldn’t go on vacations or getaways. In fact, the only “vacations” she ever took were when one of her siblings fell ill or died, and she had to fly to Hawaii to visit. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t think such trips should ever count as vacations, especially since they are so emotionally difficult. It’s not like my mom went to Hawaii and had a grand time at the funerals she attended.

Though I had traveled to various destinations for reasons other than the death of a relative, I knew that I had also fallen into a similar trap of making excuses about being too busy to take a vacation. So in the Spring of 2014 I decided to travel to Prague to compete in an IFBB Pro event, and figured that I would also visit Hungary, which was on my bucket list of destinations to visit.

My friend Rob passed away on April 29, 2014. After spending several weeks grieving for him, I decided to act upon my proposed travel plans to Eastern Europe. As I was planning the trip, I realized that since I would be in prep for a bodybuilding show, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Prague as a vacationing traveler, and also realized that I would only have a couple of days to explore Hungary. I ultimately decided not to compete, and instead booked a 7-day trip to Hungary which I completed in September of 2014.

Hungary turned out to be just as magical as I imagined it to be, and I honestly felt like I was honoring my dearly departed friend Rob when I was there. By an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to travel to Sydney, Australia and Bali the following month. Satisfied with having traveled to 3 new countries, I resolved to go somewhere new in 2016.

In March of 2016, I flew to Costa Rica, adding to my list of foreign destinations and keeping my promise to Rob and myself to travel internationally in an even year. After my Costa Rica trip, I wasn’t able to save money consistently for a trip in 2018, but whenever I had a chance to set something aside, I did.

I’m proud to say that I have fulfilled my promise yet again this year, when I traveled to the Maldives in September, and to Thailand earlier this month. Both trips were absolutely amazing, and I feel spiritually richer because of those experiences. I love the fact that I am able to say that I added six new countries in the last 5 years to my foreign travel roster, and I have every intention of adding to the list in 2020. My goal is to save up for a trip to Japan in 2020, but if I am unable to save enough money to travel to that destination, I will select a more reasonably priced excursion so that I can stay on track with my travel goals.

For those of you who are curious about what foreign countries I have visited, here is the list:

England (1980)
France (1980)
Switzerland (1980)
Italy (1980)
Germany (1980)
Austria (1980)
Greece (1980)
Turkey (1980)
Hungary (2014)
Mexico (1986, 1989, 1992)
Costa Rica (2016)
Australia (Sydney) (2014)
Bali (2014)
Maldives (2018)
Thailand (2018)

It will be exciting to think about what countries I will visit in the future. Some of the countries on my list include: Fiji, Bora Bora, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nepal.

For those of you who dream of traveling, but who always seem to find a roadblock when trying to plan a trip, how about setting a similar goal to the one I have set for myself? You would give yourself at least a year to save up money between trips, and you would be able to travel to destinations you’ve always wanted to see.

A Spoonful of Laughter

Copyright : Jacek Dudzinski (courtesy of 123RF.com

The curative effects of laughter are now widely known, and many people (myself included) thrive on humorous social media posts. From the time I was a small child, I gravitated towards comedy, watching Carol Burnett, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Dave Allen (does anyone remember this fella?) and Benny Hill faithfully, all the while leaving my mother puzzled by my intense interest in the funny television variety shows which were the order of the day back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. She became even more concerned when I picked up a copy of Eddie Murphy: Comedian in 1982 and laughed my ass off while listening to the album repeatedly. Eddie’s stand-up style was so off-color for my mother that she bitched and moaned about me listening to him, but I found him hilarious and kept on listening. I have the record album (yes, a vinyl LP) in my collection to this day.

My love of comedy has never waned, and though I don’t watch enough television to get drawn into current sitcoms or other comedic shows, I am in my car often enough that I have developed a habit of listening to comedy while I drive. I find it much more enjoyable to listen to comedy than music while I am in the car, and since SiriusXM has a number of comedy stations, I have them loaded as presets on my radio and rotate through them. I would much rather listen to a comedy bit by a talented stand-up comedian than to toggle through radio stations which often play the same tunes over and over. The fact that I can laugh while driving, especially in Los Angeles, is a godsend. It’s a great way to arrive at my destination in a relatively good mood, even if I have to sit through hellish traffic.

Even if you don’t have SiriusXM, you can catch some pretty amusing morning radio shows. In L.A., I like listening to Frosty, Heidi and Frank. Most large metropolitan areas host morning radio shows which are worth a listen.

Copyright : yuriz (courtesy of 123RF.com)

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.

Banish Obesity for Good with These Simple Wellness Tips

Photo via Pexels

Check out this informative article by Dana Brown of Health Conditions which is chock-full of effective and easy wellness tips.

– By Dana Brown

Obesity is a lifestyle disease that plagues over 1 in 3 Americans. This causes preventable illnesses and health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, gallstones, high blood pressure, and joint weakness. Many people suffering from obesity have tried to lose weight through fad diets and trendy fitness routines only to fall back on old habits. Instead, maintain health for the long term by making wellness-focused changes to your lifestyle.

Find the Best Workout Routine for You

Starting a workout routine can be very hard if you’re struggling with obesity. Verywell Fit emphasizes the importance of finding a workout catered to you instead of joining random fitness programs because you don’t know what else to do. Find a workout that you can enjoy and stick to. Some of the best workouts for obese adults include walking, group exercise classes, and strength training. If any exercise causes pain, try something else. For example, aqua jogging is a good alternative to walking if you have pain in your joints.

Develop a Balanced Diet Plan

Avoiding empty calories is more important than cutting your calorie intake when it comes to losing weight. This means staying away from sugary foods and those containing unhealthy fats. Instead, aim to get a balance of nutrients from each meal you eat. The majority of your calories should come from fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein. These foods will provide your organs with the nutrients they need to help you fight disease and daily fatigue.

Make Time to Get Restorative Rest

Not getting enough sleep can be a barrier standing between you and your weight loss goals. Studies show that sleeping habits can disrupt the efficacy of weight-reduction programs. When we lack sleep, our bodies are stimulated to increase our appetite unnaturally. Sleep disruption also affects the body’s ability to control blood sugar and cortisol levels. Try to get more than 7 hours of sleep per night to increase your likelihood of successful weight loss.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

Making improvements to your overall wellness includes addressing any mental health issues that you may have. Many studies have found a link between obesity and mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. According to experts, people tend to use food to self-medicate their emotions. Mental health issues also lead to a decrease in physical activity, which is a common cause of onset obesity. So, it’s important to cut out stress from your life and get help if you’re suffering from a mental disorder.

Ditch the Scale

What if you didn’t have to step on a scale to check your progress? According to Livestrong, avoiding the scale can be a healthier way to measure weight-loss. Scales give us an inaccurate representation of our fitness. They don’t tell us where we’re carrying excess weight or how healthy our bodies actually are. Plus, the numbers on the scale can be disheartening when they’re higher than we expect. Instead, track your progress in other ways.

First, it’s easy to tell you’re losing weight when clothes start fitting better or become baggier. You should take note of compliments made by friends and family, since changes to your body will be more obvious to other people than to you. You’ll also notice significant changes in your energy levels and how your body feels. For example, you’ll feel stronger, be able to walk farther, and feel less pain. You may also notice reduced stress and better quality sleep. These are all signs that you’re progressing on your weight loss journey.

Dealing with obesity through wellness-centered actions will help you get to the root of the problem. By changing up your lifestyle for one that’s healthier and focused on caring for your mind, you can finally keep those pounds off for good. Eventually, these actions will become healthy habits that will keep you feeling good for years to come.

Fit on the Fly: How to Work Out While Traveling

Check out this informative article by Sheila Olson of FitSheila.com

image via Pexels

Whether you have to travel for work or you are about to enjoy a vacation, spending time to improve your physical fitness while traveling should fit into your schedule. The more time you take off from your fitness regimen, the harder it will be to bounce back once you settle back into your normal life. That being said, traveling is a great opportunity to switch up your fitness routine and challenge your body to work in a new way. Exercise variety is key when it comes to burning fat and calories while improving other elements such as balance and flexibility.

Check out these tips on ways to incorporate workouts into your travel plans and itinerary so you can stay fit on the fly.

Try Out a Local Class

Boutique fitness studios are popping up everywhere nowadays; surely there are a few not too far from wherever you are staying. Scout out your options and walk in to see if they have any deals for first-time students. Often, these places offer the first class for free or at a discounted rate in hopes of encouraging the person to sign up for more.

When picking out a class to try, always lean toward the beginner’s level, even if you consider yourself fit. The latest fitness crazes always throw in some kind of twist to make them more difficult– like this Dallas studio that has you do basic bootcamp exercises, but on a suspended surfboard. You never know what you are going to get with a new class, so you might as well start out slowly.

Tour the Town

There is always something to explore, no matter where you are. And if there is something to explore, there is a way to do it while also breaking a sweat. If you have time to see the sights wherever you travel, get as much of them in as you can by running, skating, or biking around the area. Not only will you be fitting in a workout, but when you hit the pavement, you get a taste of what life is like for a local.

Even if you don’t have the time to burn running around the city, you can choose to be more active by walking wherever you need to go. While it doesn’t burn many calories, there are still health benefits to walking. Try to get at least 12,000 steps in each day– Plexus recommends tracking them with an app on your smartphone. Be sure to go the extra mile with the little things like taking the stairs instead of an elevator or getting off the subway one stop early if you have the time to stroll.

Eat Right

Diet is just as important as exercise, and don’t let anyone try to tell you differently. If you spend your travel time eating junk, it’s going to come back to haunt you once you are home. Maintaining a wholesome diet while you are on the road is really more important than fitting in exercise. If you walk a lot and eat well, you may lose some of your recent gym gains, but your bounce back will be swift.

● Avoid all processed foods and stick with snacks that are composed of a few ingredients at maximum. Some great options include fruit and nuts.

● Buy groceries and make your food rather than eating at restaurants. Food you make at home tends to have less fat, sugar, and sodium in it. Chefs tend to put those ingredients in their food to make you come back for more.

● If you are flying, bring an empty water bottle with you. Once you are through security, fill it up at the water fountain. Drink plenty of water throughout your trip to prevent dehydration.

***

Travel is no excuse to forgo fitness. Stay on top of your workout game by trying a new class and seeing the sights in a way that also breaks a sweat. Also, don’t neglect your diet while you travel. Eating a poor diet makes bouncing back that much more difficult when you get back on your fitness track at home.

Accentuate The Positive

Stacey Naito Japanese Warrior

We can often be our own worst enemies, laying sabotage upon our own best efforts. The basis of such subterfuge is our own fear-based collection of thoughts, and can be more damaging than any efforts made by others to trip us up. What’s the solution? Banish your fears!

Before you allow that monstrous pull of trepidation pull you into the muck, get into the habit of replacing every single negative and self-defeating thought you have with a positive, hope-filled one.

Yes, every single one.

Perhaps you are doubting your ability to complete a massive work project, and you find yourself grappling with the feeling that you won’t be able to complete it in time, or that you will do a shoddy job because you feel rushed. Instead of feeding that insecurity, tell yourself:

I CAN do this. I WILL do this.

Do this repeatedly until it begins to sink in. Allow your positive thoughts to take up space in your mind, so much so that they push out the negativity.

— mention Bing Crosby’s “Accentuate the Positive”


Every thought can have a negative and a positive spin. Train yourself to turn to the positive. Remember that worry and guilt only eat away at one’s spirit. ——

The last thing you should ever do is to knock yourself down. Someone who is bound and determined to succeed quickly learns how to push away negativity from haters, and never allows a bad day to destroy the success plan which is in place. Successful people have a can-do, will-do attitude which has very little to do with overall intelligence, talent, or opportunity.

So stop beating yourself up, push away the haters, and go for your goals!