Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 27 of 365: Empathy versus Comparison

People come in all shapes and sizes, every snowflake is different and special, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc, etc.

It's safe to say that people fit into certain personality types. If you are a fan of Carl Jung, then you already know the concept of typologies. Introversion versus extroversion. Perceiving versus judging. And so on and so forth. If you were born any time between 1980 and 1990, you probably took an online personality quiz that is based off of Carl Jung's findings on typological personalities.

I feel like one more should be added to the list. Perhaps it's an offshoot of "Perceiving versus Judging", but I've found that, when it comes to interactions with other people, people fall into one of two categories: empathy versus comparison.

The empathetic personality removes themselves from what a person is telling them. If you want to throw some Freud, you get rid of the superego. You are genuinely excited, happy, upset for that person. On the flipside, the comparison personality puts themselves right at the forefront of what a person is telling them. How does their story impact your life? How does their bit of news compare to your experiences?

Take, for instance, a friend tells you that they are going on vacation. The empathetic personality is excited for their friend and tells them to have fun and take lots of pictures. The comparison personality immediately thinks about the last time they went on vacation, and if they have ever been to that specific destination.

Or, on the flip side, a friend tells you that their boyfriend of a few months has dumped them. The empathetic personality feels for their friend. The comparison personality thinks about when they were last dumped, if the relationship was longer or shorter, and how they had reacted to said break-up.

This is a shaky personality, as no one is 100% empathetic. In fact, we usually draw from our own experiences to feel for other people's experiences. But there is still an interesting line between the two personalities: the, "that's awesome," versus, "I'm jealous."

I remember, once upon a time, when David Cook auditioned for American Idol. Simon Cowell asked if his friends are happy for him. David Cook said his friends were very happy for him -- to which Simon replied, "No friends are happy for other friends' successes." That tells me that Simon Cowell is very much a comparison personality. He would never be fully happy for a friend's success because he compares it to what he has or hasn't succeeded in yet.

There's no right or wrong archetype, and Empathy versus Comparison is no different. I think comparison personalities are natural fighters. These are the people who will claw their way to the top because they constantly compare their coworkers' successes against her own. On the flipside, I think empathy personalities could potentially be enablers.

This is not exactly a fully-thought-out idea (as I'm coming up with it just now), but there is something to be said about how the two archetypes impact a human connection. Think about the people you spend time with. Think about those who constantly bring the conversation back to themselves ("you tried yoga? I did yoga a few times." "Your hamster died? Yeah, I had to put my dog down, which is a lot sadder.") Granted, I feel that a 100% empathetic personality would be the equivalent of a yes-man, but it makes me wonder just how much we lean toward the "comparison" side. We write, "Jealous!!!" under a friend's picture of the beach. We deny sympathy towards a friend's plight because, we "went through something similar and wasn't so emotional about it."

So my Empathy versus Comparison might not exactly bring me any accolades from the world of psychology, but it does bring to me a pretty major point: when you compare, you can't be empathetic. And when you can't be empathetic, you lose out on a proper human connection.

Most psychologists spend years in academia, extrapolating and pontificating and researching, before they'll even make their ideas known. Meanwhile I stream-of-conscious something I came up with while taping up the frame in our guest room.

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