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Having empathy need not stop with just identifying with another’s predicament; ‘doers’ go beyond this, and offer help in supportive ways. Are you one of them?
“Frankly, I don’t envy you.” This was the comment directed at me in a family gathering. Coming from a woman, the statement told me that she understood and empathized with my situation. Beyond getting validation for my feelings, I felt relieved that someone out there knew exactly what I was going through.
But the more I thought about the statement, I realized I didn’t like being told, ‘I don’t envy you’. Because, what it also tells me is that this person is thanking her lucky stars that she doesn’t have to envy me. Imagine her plight if the roles were reversed! She would be truly envying my stress-free and problem free life. I call people like her the ‘watchers’.
Watchers watch how other people are doing. They see them celebrate, grieve, fight and rejoice. They are constantly comparing their own lives with that of the ‘watchee’ and feel satisfied when they see that they have ‘nothing to be envious about’. They are strangely optimistic people who will empathize but will refuse to do anything beyond that. Although they are extremely polite and courteous, conversations with them are always a lose-win for the watchee.
On the contrary, ‘doers’ are people who do. Like the watchers, they are also kind and courteous. They too have the ability to empathize, but they don’t stop there. As a new mother struggling to settle in a new country, I have met a few doers who have made my day.
Like the woman with four kids at the day care. It was my son’s first day in school and I was moved beyond tears watching him cry. This woman not only empathized (she had gone through this four times) but she shared her ‘first day at school’ story with me. Her kind words came back to me when it was my younger son’s first day at school. Imagine how I would have felt if she had said ‘I don’t envy you’.
Like the mom in the toddler play and learn session. Our kids were playing and we got chatting. Conversation moved to friends and neighbors and I told her that we don’t have a lot of friends. She immediately scribbled her name and number on a piece of paper. That was three years ago. We are great friends now and are a part of a bigger circle of friends. Imagine how I would have felt if she had said ‘I don’t envy you’.
Like another mom friend. When I told her that child care had fallen through and I did not know where to find someone, she promptly packed her two kids in the car and arrived home. Imagine how I would have felt if she had said ‘I don’t envy you’.
Doing doesn’t cost anything. It merely shows that you are human and have a heart. It shows your willingness to share your stories and make the world a better place, one word at a time.
So, are you a watcher or a doer?
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