Why do people hate giving sympathy to people looking for it?

Postby mcliffor » Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:40 am

This might seem like a weird question, but it's something I've always observed in myself and lots of other people. When a person is in a cruddy situation, I feel sorry for them. When they're in a cruddy situation and come up to me and sigh, hoping I'll put on a sad face and ask what's wrong, I stop feeling sorry for them. It's when I know they want attention and sympathy that I hate giving it! Why is that? It just doesn't seem rational!

I can give an example. A girl I know just started medication for anxiety (something I did years ago), and when I did it, it was a private affair, between me, my doctor and family members. I felt there was something wrong with sharing this with people. (Why?) But I watch this girl sigh in front of everyone, hoping they'll start rubbing her back so she can tell the same hackneyed story about how drowsy she is she's already told a thousand times. Because I'm unwilling to feed into that and answer her request for sympathy with sympathy, she is bitter I'm not taking her issues seriously, which I guess it true, since I think she's seeking a level of involvement far beyond what the situation merits.

What is going on in her mind? And why am I so unwilling to give in?
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Postby noodle1978 » Thu Nov 09, 2006 7:06 am

....because its attention seeking. If someone comes up to you looking for sympathy (and not in an amusing way such "I just stubbed my toe!") then it says several things to the person being approached...

"My problems are more important than yours"

"I am more important than you - feel sorry for me"

"me me me me me....."

And if someone sighs at me that is them trying to illicit a response from me - i.e. control me....


This is why people who go looking for sympathy often don't get it.

Personally I don't go for sympathy - I go to someome who will just sit there and listen - and not "feel sorry" or pass judgement - just listen.

Rather than coming up and sighing a better way would be "hey can I talk to you? I need someone to listen!"
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Postby stella_blues » Thu Nov 09, 2006 10:38 am

I agree with Noodles reply on why people often hold back sympathy/empathy.

Another thing I'd like to add, regarding my own experience with this, is that there are times I just don't have it to give. I tend the be the friend people call in times of crisis b/c I'm very good at shelfing my own problems and am a very effective listener. But I think everyone has their limit- esp. when one is already feeling irritable and self pitying due to depression.

My therapist wants to know why I don't share my troubles with my parnter. A big reason is b/c I know my partner would be very saddened, even hurt, to know many of my inner troubles. She tends to blame herself when life goes badly and I'm the one there to comfort and talk her through things. And, quite frankly, I really don't have it in me to comfort and nurse her over these additional issues. So it's easier for me to just keep things to myself.

So that could be another reason for not being emotionally available for someone in a time of need.
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Postby HyperOnExperience » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:02 pm

Hi, I have a similar problem. My mum is very emotionaly closed and when me or my sister has a problem she very rarly gives any sympathy or empathy. She just goes on the offensive and for some reason. When i have a problem i dont want someone to say 'it's your own stupid fault' or 'even i know that'. I need someone to listen to me and not pass judgment, just to be there and understand. I would consider myself a very good listener. When my sister or any of my freinds come to me with there problems i feel its my duty to listen to them because it helps lift the weight of there problem. However if she comes to me looking for sympathy, (theres a difference between looking and needing)then i wont respond because i know it's just for selfish reasons and not genuine.
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Postby Lakotagirl » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:12 pm

I agree with this, what everyone has said. I listen to everyone's problems and currently I've been in a lot of situations where I can't give sympathy to anyone. So now i'm point blank about it. If someone is going to tell me about their problems, just as HyperonExperience has shown the first signs, I'll tell them I really can't listen to your problems right now. Then it makes out to be the bad guy.

Usually I find out later that those people who tell all their problems like Noodle has said are really selfish. If you try and tell them anything, they know how to turn the conversation on them.

I remember I had this one instance, where I had a friend (a sympathy seeker) and I was upset over something, and some how he managed to turn the conversation on him and I was the one comforting him...So watch out.
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