Why is it difficult to give sympathy?

One of the people that I looked up to the most was my high school math teacher, Mr. Frew.  Mr. Frew encouraged students to read books such as Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People.  Mr. Frew taught me the importance of trying to understand the other person’s perspective (i.e. when you’re trying to build a relationship with another person).  Mr. Frew passed away in my first year of University.  At the time, there was only one positive that I could identify: in life, we’re fortunate to meet certain people (even if it’s only for a brief period of time).

When someone else shares bad news (i.e. they broke up with someone, someone passed away), I never know what to say.  I’ll generally say I’m sorry for your loss. 

I was at the hospital once when my friend Yasuko had an emergency appendectomy.  Yasuko kept complaining that she was in excruciating pain.  Yasuko’s favorite actor is Taylor Kitsch, so I started talking about an upcoming movie called The Grand Seduction.  I wasn’t trying to ignore Yasuko’s pain.  I thought that it would be a better strategy to change the topic (so that we weren’t focusing on Yasuko’s pain every minute).

Basically, my only strategy when people are upset is to try to listen, and then switch the topic when it seems appropriate to talk about something else.


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