One thing I love about us human beings is our ability to sympathize and empathize. Here’s a refresher for those who may have forgotten the difference: sympathy is when you feel sorry for someone, and empathy is when you are able to put yourself in the person’s shoes (often because you have been in a similar situation). Sympathy says “I am sorry you’re in pain”. Empathy says “I feel our pain”. You don’t have to have experienced the same thing as a person to feel their pain, but having similar experiences often makes it easier to empathize with a person. Got it? Let’s continue.
I know you’ve experienced this. Someone posts on social media about how they’re feeling and underneath that post is a flood of “me too”, “I went through that too”, “Yeah I’m going through it too”, etc. The person could say they lost $50 and someone will comment and say “Well I lost $500 the other day.” Let me just break this down for a moment.
Although we should show empathy and let people know that we feel where they are coming from, it is not always appropriate to make someone else’s time of venting, grieving etc. about you. In essence, when you post your “me too”, that’s what you’re doing. You may not MEAN to do that, but that’s what you’re doing.
As you may know, I am a suicide prevention specialist. Imagine this. Imagine this being the conversation between me and a suicidal person:
Them: I feel so horrible today.
Me: Me too!
Them: I really feel like killing myself today.
Me: I understand. I felt that way yesterday.
Them: Yeah, my mom is in the hospital.
Me: Sorry to hear that. Last month, my mom was in the hospital.
Them: It’s just so hard trying to go see her and go to work.
Me: When my mom and dad were in the hospital, I had to work and go to school too, so I know how you feel.
Do you get the point? What value did I add to that conversation? How would I have helped the individual if all I did was fire back a “me too” to everything they said? To some people, not only is this frustrating, but it could also be very offensive. The person didn’t call me to hear about my problems. They called to get help for theirs.
Now let’s spin this conversation a different way.
Them: I feel so horrible today.
Me: I’m so sorry to hear that. What’s got you feeling so bad?
Them: Well my mom is in the hospital.
Me: That’s gotta be tough. I’m definitely gonna keep your mom in my thoughts and prayers. How are you taking care of yourself while going through this situation with your mom? (Notice that I have not yet used a “me too” statement.)
Them: Well it’s hard because I have to work and try to see her too. It’s a lot.
Me: Well, I can understand how hard that must be. I have been in a similar situation so I can relate. I think I have some advice that may help you. Would you like to hear it?
Do you see how I structured my “me too” statement? It wasn’t appropriate to just fire it off at the beginning of the conversation. It also isn’t appropriate to give unsolicited advice. Let’s continue.
Me: So, last month, my mom AND my dad were in the hospital. It was a lot on me. I had to visit with both of them AND work AND go to school. I didn’t know how I was gonna get it all done, so this is what I did…
See how that works? Sometimes it’s not about what you say. It’s about how you say it and WHEN you say it. Don’t be so quick to interject your “me too”. Be sure to give the other person time to express how they feel before you shift the conversation to yourself. And honestly, sometimes a “me too” is not appropriate at any point in the conversation. Sometimes it’s just best to let the other person vent and express how they feel.
I hope this helps. And if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an inappropriate “me too”, feel free to share this podcast! I don’t mind at all.
Have an amazing day today. Show love to yourself AND others. Be GREAT! I speak life to you and everyone and everything connected to you! Catch me tomorrow!