You Can Imagine, But You Can’t Know - Grasshopper
Watching a golf tournament over the weekend, one of the announcers said this about a golfer’s mental state going into the final round of the tournament: “I can imagine how he’s feeling.” Then The Grasshopper quickly replied, “You can imagine how he feels, but you can’t know.”
That musing pointed out an indelible fact of life: We are not mind readers. Yes, we can have an opinion, an imagining, or a hallucination about how another feels, but we can never know. Because, like fingerprints, everyone feels differently. Even identical twins faced with the exact same set of circumstances at the exact same time will have different sensations going through their body even though they may have the same name for their feeling.
One may have felt terrified and the other mildly apprehensive, but both reported they were “scared.” Scared for one is different than scared for the other, but too often we claim to know how someone feels when they say they’re scared.
You can be the world’s biggest empath and still not know how another feels. You may have a general idea, but you can’t ever know for sure. That’s why these words should never leave your lips: “I know how you feel.” No, you don’t. You never have and you never will. And to say those words discounts how another is feeling.
It’s more helpful to say something like, “I can’t even imagine how or what you’re feeling, but I’m here for you and want to help in any way I can.” That’s being supportive rather than spouting an ineffective “I know.”
Words do matter and your choice of them can offer comfort or make someone feel worse. Removing “I know how you feel” will make your efforts of comfort more effective and more real.
All the best,
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