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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Empathy Gauge

Sometimes my empathy wears me out.

Although I don't believe it's possible to be too empathic, there are times when I tire of walking in other people's shoes. I'm not claiming to be an unselfish person; I have at least one good friend who fits that description and I'm not at all like her. But I often feel the pain of other people enough that I become emotional. Consequently, I've embarrassed myself more than once as well as making others uncomfortable. I guess I'm searching for some middle ground and looking for help.

I've also fantasized it would be neat if I could have an empathy gauge that others could easily see. If my gauge read "full" (like the gas gauge on a car dashboard) then others would know they might be in for an emotional reaction if they shared a story of hardship, discrimination, or loss with me. If my gauge was closer to "empty" then there could be less chance for tears from me. Or, I can check the imaginary gauge myself whenever anyone starts that type of story and then issue a warning, when appropriate. Actually, the idea of  people having a visible empathy gauge might be pretty cool all the way around. Those of us looking for  empathic responses might have a better shot getting what we need from others during difficult times.

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