We often judge each other based on limited information and decide another person has an easier life, more money, more friends, or is more relaxed. Perhaps others just seem to be happier or have a better life overall.
When someone judges your situation and verbally labels it by making a comment, it can be affirming or insulting. Of course, the person making the comment doesn’t mean any harm, and their comment is derived from their own feelings about their personal life. But when it does feel insulting, what should be the appropriate response?
Personally, I feel the best way to respond is to smile, nod, and say thank you. Nothing good comes from arguing the point. Perhaps in another conversation at a later date, if appropriate, you can share some of the struggles you face to help balance the picture. At that time, the person may be in a different frame of mind to consider your perspective without being clouded by their own emotions. Or they may not be the type of person who can take your perspective, so save yourself the energy and let it go.
Empathy is a highly regarded skill that develops with age and experience. But not everyone has the same capacity for empathy and psychologists don’t necessarily understand why this occurs. My guess is like most things it’s a mix of nature and nurture – what comes naturally and what we are taught combine to place us in a certain category of personality and thus level of empathy.
Not sure about your own capacity for empathy? I argue it’s an essential life skill and becoming more important as our world continues to shrink due to globalisation and technology, but the pressures on us as individuals and the Earth due to climate change create serious issues. The first step to empathy is to become more self-aware. Take time regularly to read about personality, development, and emotions, and use this to guide your understanding of yourself.
Empathy comes from putting yourself in the shoes of another and actively trying to understand their perspective. It’s a key skill for all humans to develop and with greater empathy, the world could be a much better place.