Say you are talking to your spouse about an issue you've run into at work with one of the managers. You're venting a little bit, simply wanting to talk it out and get some validation that your reactions in the scenario weren't completely off-base and when you pause for breath, he starts talking about how awful things are at HIS job and how the managers are all idiots and listen to what they recently did that is so much worse than your story. And you find yourself nodding and saying, "oh wow, that IS terrible" and you never seem to get back to YOUR story. It just disappears into the context of the conversation, leaving you feeling rather ignored and unsatisfied about your attempt to get some clarity.
Or say you are talking to a friend about the worry you are feeling for your mom who is far away and dealing with the impending death of your grandmother, her mother, and how you feel so helpless and unable to do anything because you can't go be there to help with anything concrete, and your friend answers you with the fact that HER grandmother just died a couple of weeks ago, also far away, and leaving her feeling helpless. Your response? Sympathy and "oh wow, that IS terrible" and it IS. But.
It's a human impulse, apparently, when you hear a story or an incident or an experience, to share the story or incident or experience in YOUR life that relates, that is triggered by the telling of the first one. And sometimes, it can definitely be helpful, on both sides, because you can get info and insight into how someone else handled something similar to the thing that is happening or has happened to you. It can give you the sense that you are not alone. But I often think it leaves me feeling more alone, and not heard. That my story or incident is simply a reminder to someone of something similar that has happened to them that they must then relate in order to show me that I don't have it that bad.
I think we all need to be better at listening. It's very topical right now, this not listening, with all the people answering "all lives matter" in response to "Black lives matter". When you don't listen, you miss the point. And the point is so often just to be HEARD. Just to get validation, or agreement, or sympathy or confirmation. It's not to get one-upped.
And, maybe in some cases, our answers containing our own stories in response to someone else's ARE our way of saying "I hear you and validate your story with a similar one of my own". Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this, but it's been on my mind so I thought I'd vent a little, write it out. Maybe get some validation that my reactions aren't way off-base.