Gaining Empathy? I guess

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Post by nolorn on Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:18 am

HermitTheToad wrote:
nolorn wrote:
Hard to do that when they have had multiple partners and I am still a virgin- I know it is tough but it is to me like a rich man complaining about how to spend his money when I'm homeless

I guess it's just a mantra/self flagellation that has to do for me.

Nolorn, I'm a virgin too. The way you feel? It doesn't have to be that way.

Also, we're derailing. Maybe we can talk about this in a separate thread?

sure-

so part of my post I said that I have a hard time syphathizing with women's dating problems. There was another part about how lack of empahty may have some genetic compenent in men, but that is a discussion for another time

Ethically and abstractly I understand why it is important to have empathy for women's dating problems, but I can't seriosly bring myself to do it.

I have no problem working with women in a professional and friendly matter- I have worked with groups where women are the leaders in University projects and done fine, gaining women friends in the process

I however have never broached the 'dating' topic with them as I feel it would jeapordize our professional relationship.

There is also the issue with respect to dating- you really don't need empathy to be a successful dater and so on, as a result I am not particularly invested in feeling for women who complain about their dating prospects.


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Post by Guest on Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:28 am

nolorn wrote:I however have never broached the 'dating' topic with them as I feel it would jeapordize our professional relationship.

Both where empathy is concerned and where it is not, I think this a pitfall that many men (and most definitely myself) fall into. The very thought of talking about dating, success or otherwise, with women I actually know in person is terrifying. It's why I go to the web.

In my case, I don't even understand why. I mean, I've got that clichéd fear of being labelled a creep, but I do trust the women I am friends with. It could be an issue with not handling fear well? I dunno. I do have general trust issues with everyone, even with those people I do consider trustworthy. That doesn't help.

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Post by Mel on Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:08 am

I have to say it makes me sad to hear someone say they "can't bring themselves" to have empathy for women.  Women are people.  Human beings.  We have much more in common with men than we are different.  People experience dating problems.  Why should the person's gender make it impossible for you to empathize?  A woman who's lonely can feel just as crappy about it as a man who's lonely.  A woman who can't find a sexual partner can feel just as crappy about it as a man who can't.

Even your analogy doesn't really make sense.  Women are not all, or even mostly, "rich."  Young, conventionally attractive, outgoing women tend to have an easy time dating.  So do young, conventionally attractive, outgoing men.  In other words, young, conventionally attractive, outgoing people tend to have an easy time dating.  This doesn't need to be gendered.  Maybe it would help if you recognized that the majority of women, just like the majority of men, are not in fact young, conventionally attractive, and outgoing, and so your initial premise of how women are theoretically different from men and thus unrelatable to you is incorrect?

Edit: Just to add, I do think it's understandable (and quite normal) to have trouble emphasizing with someone who's complaining about an area where they already are doing "better" than you. I have trouble with that myself. The problem is the way you're defining this lack of empathy as being about gender rather than about relative success, even though there are plenty of men more "successful" than you and plenty of women struggling just as much.


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Post by UristMcBunny on Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:20 am

I agree with Mel. It feels like what might be going on here is a phenomenon that I know a few of us can talk about - female invisibility. For some people, conventionally unattractive women do not exist or do not register as women. So the assumption is that the women complaining about dating problems must be conventionally attractive and therefore "have nothing to complain about" which... I mean, I know some stunningly attractive women who've had some really shitty relationship issues, but there are also a lot of women who have problems dating for the exact same reasons as some guys.

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Post by Guest on Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:29 am

Mel wrote:Edit: Just to add, I do think it's understandable (and quite normal) to have trouble emphasizing with someone who's complaining about an area where they already are doing "better" than you.  I have trouble with that myself.  The problem is the way you're defining this lack of empathy as being about gender rather than about relative success, even though there are plenty of men more "successful" than you and plenty of women struggling just as much.

This. As much trouble as I know I have with empathy, I try my hardest not to gender how I handle it because it's irrelevant. If anything, I'm more frustrated by my male bartender friends 'whinging' about girls giving them their number while on shift (three in one night is one hell of a hat trick) than any conversation with women that even hints they have a tough time dating. Hell, I know more single women than men right now if I have my numbers right. It's one of those logical things, I like to think - women are human, humans have trouble with dating therefore women have trouble with dating. Da-dum, amazing.

It's probably worth noting I don't exactly talk dating with guys either. Save for my two best friends anyway, and even then, one is way worse off than me (he's desperate for a girlfriend but can't get one) and my other friend was abused in one relationship and the other fell apart in circumstances he doesn't really wish to discuss. Even then, the second friend is great at meeting and talking to people. He definitely knows how to be sociable and fun in a way I have no understanding of.

...I'm beginning to think my problem is expressing empathy rather than actually nutting it out in my head. This stuff throws me for a loop, it really does.

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Post by reboot on Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:40 am

One thing to remember with empathy is that it does not mean that you necessarily feel sympathy for the person, you just understand why they feel, act, react, behave etc. the way they do based on their experiences. It is more an understanding of human motivation in the individual.

Expressing empathy can be tricky because you do not want to overdo it and act like you know everything there is to know because even the most empathetic person can not really know what it is like to be the other person 100%. It is a delicate balance of showing that you understand what they feel without overriding their feelings with your understanding.
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Post by reboundstudent on Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:52 am

UristMcBunny wrote:I agree with Mel.  It feels like what might be going on here is a phenomenon that I know a few of us can talk about - female invisibility.  For some people, conventionally unattractive women do not exist or do not register as women.  So the assumption is that the women complaining about dating problems must be conventionally attractive and therefore "have nothing to complain about" which... I mean, I know some stunningly attractive women who've had some really shitty relationship issues, but there are also a lot of women who have problems dating for the exact same reasons as some guys.

To jump off this, when I was much younger, I had a lot of problems emphasizing with other women's dating problems because these women-from my perspective-were striking oil constantly (had lots of men wanting to date them/sleeping with them), and thus in comparison to me didn't get to complain. My refusal to emphasize was at least 60% jealousy, 40% misunderstanding. It wasn't until I forced myself to peak inside the box a little that I began to understood that the superficiality of "success" was, in many cases, anything but. The friend who had guys lining up to date her? They were all guys who put absurd expectations on her (essentially saw her as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.) The hot girl who constantly had men fawning on her? They'd sleep with her, but never date her, because they only wanted a hot score, they didn't want to deal with her actual personality. The gal friend who all of my ex-boyfriends routinely fell for? She can attract them like flies to honey, but has severe trust issues and can never connect with anyone on a deeper level-and the guys frequently don't try.

Take your complaint in the other thread, that even unattractive women have had partners and you're still a virgin, so you don't see why you should be empathetic to their complaints about dating. But peak under the lid a little... I can't speak for all unattractive women, but for myself, a lot of the partners I had either 1) just wanted to screw something. They didn't like me, they didn't even find me attractive, but "sex = 1 more tally in the I'm A Man column", so they went for it, or 2) they were incredibly desperate and decided locking themselves into something was better than nothing.

Referring to 1, I had 1 guy who slept with me for 3 months, and then ended it by telling me he wasn't physically attracted to me.

Really, really try to imagine how awful those two feelings are. Would you want to have sex, if you knew that your partners were having sex either out of desperation or some twisted social message that they had to? And if yes, you would totally choose sex in those circumstances, really ask yourself why-why in the world is sex so all encompassing important that you don't even require your partner to like you?
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Post by Guest on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:26 am

reboot wrote:One thing to remember with empathy is that it does not mean that you necessarily feel sympathy for the person, you just understand why they feel, act, react, behave etc. the way they do based on their experiences. It is more an understanding of human motivation in the individual.

Expressing empathy can be tricky because you do not want to overdo it and act like you know everything there is to know because even the most empathetic person can not really know what it is like to be the other person 100%. It is a delicate balance of showing that you understand what they feel without overriding their feelings with your understanding.

Maybe I've been incorrectly conflating sympathy and empathy then, because I feel like I can understand the why behind reactions, feelings and behaviour. It's the reaction I seem to have problems with and it locks me up. Sympathy usually refers to concern for the other person, I think? I always had trouble separating the two into clearly defined concepts; at one point I thought the two terms were interchangeable but I was told that was wrong.

I need to think about this.

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Post by Guest on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:39 am

There's an exercise that's been recommended to me a few times in the last couple of months. The Doc may actually have been one of those sources, because I have zero memory of who's been saying it. Basically, you try to look at people -- all people -- looking for the things people love in them.

Whenever you're interacting with someone, you let part of yourself try to figure out why his kids light up when they see him, or what her mother misses most about having her live far away, or why his wife married him, or what her ex regrets losing.

Your obnoxious, blustering boss, who makes you feel like crap? He's always out of the office at 4:30 because he insists on being with his kids for dinner every day.

The neighbor whose dog keeps crapping in your yard? Genuinely loves animals, and volunteers for the humane society.

The obnoxious guy on the bus, who talks loudly into his cell phone Every Freaking Day? He has a cute little dimple in only his right cheek.

The painfully slow person collecting cash in the caf (seriously, the line is five miles long, dude. HURRY UP)? He has a smile that transforms his face (on the rare occasions you see it)

I think learning to step outside your own perspective and see people through someone else's eyes is the first part of learning empathy: try to separate the person from the impact they have on your world.

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Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:40 am

I'm not sure about not needing empathy to date. It can at least be very helpful. For one thing, empathy makes it easier to like someone, and that's something one ought to do when dating. For another, empathy helps with communication. The aspect of empathy that is "understanding another's point of view" is absolutely necessary for communication. Picking up a hint that someone is open to your approach, for example, requries an amount of empathic imagination. So does handling rejection with grace. Not to mention the social calibration you need to flirt with people you don't know without misjudging and pushing on their boundaries.

For my part (and I'm autistic and have to work harder on these things than the average people around me) getting to know the common experiences of the people I'd like to date has been the most important lesson from DNL's blog and the community around it.

And about people-that-have-it-better-than-me-on-the-metrics-I-set-for-myself... like ease of flirtation, odds of hooking up, being with the kind of partner I would have liked to be with myself... I find it very helpful to practice empathy + compassion. If I'm genuinely happy for them when they are, and genuinely care about their feelings when they're not, I'm having feelings that are mostly incompatible with comparing their state of affairs with my own.
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Post by reboot on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:48 am

Empathy makes all human relationships easier because you can understand where a person is coming from and tailor your interactions to smooth the relationship. Your boss is a micromanager? If you understand where that behavior is coming from you can figure out strategies to lessen the micromanagement. Your class/work mate slacks on a project? Knowing why can give you the prod to get their butts in gear. Seriously, it is a valuable skill.

Also, empathy is neither good nor bad. People can use empathy for good or bad, but it is a neutral skill.
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Post by kleenestar on Fri Oct 03, 2014 1:32 pm

I strongly agree that empathy is key for dating. If you can't understand why someone else is reacting the way they do, then you're going to have a much harder time getting in tune with them. It's like trying to play the piano blindfolded - technically possible, but way harder than doing it with your eyes open.

nolorn, what I'd recommend to you as a first step is cultivating curiosity. It sounds like you leap to a lot of conclusions about what women's romantic lives are like, and I think this is actually exacerbated by your self-protective measure of not talking to women about dating. I don't know that you'll be able to jump all the way to empathy right away, but if you wanted to cultivate it the first step would be to see yourself as a dispassionate observer who is curious about these women's lives. See if you can learn about it without judgment, either of yourself or of them. I strongly suspect you'll find that the reality of their lives is much more complicated than the simple narratives you're placing on top of them, and that will help you along the empathy development road.
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Post by nolorn on Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:47 pm

So I looked at some websites like jezebel on womens dating problems and the chorus is that most of them get too mch attention and that men in general, suck

I'm sure there are women who have trouble attracting anyone but they are few and far between OLD is a cournacopia for women and their problem seems to be sorting choices, a problem I wish I had.

I also talked to two my women friends, one is kind of arranged and will marry after her studies finish and one has a purity ring

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Post by reboot on Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:06 pm

nolorn wrote:So I looked at some websites like jezebel on womens dating problems and the chorus is that most of them get too mch attention and that men in general, suck

I'm sure there are women who have trouble attracting anyone but they are few and far between OLD is a cournacopia for women and their problem seems to be sorting choices, a problem I wish I had.

I also talked to two my women friends, one is kind of arranged and will marry after her studies finish and one has a purity ring

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Nolorn, may I please refer you to the forum guidelines. The "X group has it better/worse" debate is expressly prohibited
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Post by nearly_takuan on Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:09 pm

Most X don't have trouble attracting anyone. Only 4% of Americans (male or female) older than 20 are virgins, and it's a fairly even split within that group, and some people have a very liberal interpretation of what's included under the "virgin" label, so women as a group aren't somehow getting more net attention and if the overwhelming majority of women have problems you wish you had, well, so does the overwhelming majority of men. It's not as much of a gendered thing as you think—we're just the lucky ones.

That doesn't mean that certain sub-problems aren't divided unevenly between the sexes, or that any observations you've made re: media and other cultural influences are totally meaningless. But blaming "women" for this shit and insisting that their problems are negligible is like being angry at black people because Oprah Winfrey has more money than you.
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Post by Mel on Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:16 pm

Nolorn, what exactly are you looking for with this thread? Do you want advice on how to develop empathy for women, or whether it's necessary? Or something else?

Because right now it seems as though you're ignoring everything other people are saying and simply restating the same generalizations you started with. I'm not sure I see what you hope to gain from that.
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Post by nolorn on Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:57 pm

ehh yeah, I guess that was not my intention

I am ugly and am used to women ignoring me, and this is made worse by the fact that the women in my family treat me little better than an errand boy

so it is difficult to gain empathy from those who you feel hold you in contempt

I'm not really sure where to go other than ignore internet sites.


I know that women face issues when it comes to career and child raising. I will try and focus on those instead of the arena of dating.

I wish I had no desire for love or companionship or anything like that. I genuinly envy asexuals who don't have to put up with these emotions.

They are free

I have made sure in my interactions with women to stay away from making comments about their appearence, their choice in having children and make sure not to talk to them on places like transport and the like. This place has helped me be aware of those issues. So at least I am a somewhat decent person to others, that is why I come here at times.

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Post by eselle28 on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:00 pm

nolorn wrote:ehh yeah, I guess that was not my intention
I wish I had no desire for love or companionship or anything like that. I genuinly envy asexuals who don't have to put up with these emotions.

They are free

I'm sorry to hear you're having negative interactions both with your family and in terms of your love life. That sounds really frustrating. I do think it should be noted that being asexual doesn't mean a person doesn't want love or companionship. It just means they don't want sex. We have members on this very forum who are asexual and seeking companionship. Being lonely is hard, period.
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Post by nolorn on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:04 pm

eselle28 wrote:
nolorn wrote:ehh yeah, I guess that was not my intention
I wish I had no desire for love or companionship or anything like that. I genuinly envy asexuals who don't have to put up with these emotions.

They are free

I'm sorry to hear you're having negative interactions both with your family and in terms of your love life. That sounds really frustrating. I do think it should be noted that being asexual doesn't mean a person doesn't want love or companionship. It just means they don't want sex. We have members on this very forum who are asexual and seeking companionship. Being lonely is hard, period.

yeah I know there are those kind of asexuals- I was specifically referring to those who have no need/desire for intimate companionship of any kind

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Post by Werel on Sat Oct 04, 2014 12:32 am

nolorn, it sounds like you also might benefit from expanding the circle of women you interact with; if the majority of your contact with women has been within your family, and pretty negative, it's not surprising that you feel some resistance to cultivating empathy for a group you perceive as hostile to you. But you say you do have two female friends-- are you able to have empathy for them when they express problems with non-dating issues (e.g. work, friends), or do you find you have an empathy block with women overall? If the latter, you might want to hop on over to the media by/about women thread and try spending some time taking in stories that depict women in human, identifiable ways, rather than as a discrete category of celestial beings who have no problems remotely like your problems. Smile
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Post by Dan_Brodribb on Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:16 pm

From what I'm reading, nolorn, it sounds like you're carrying around some resentment or anger towards women. It also sounds like you believe women hold you in contempt, even women who are strangers on the internet who have never even met you. It also sounds like you've had tough interaction with the female members of your family.

I hope you'll set me straight if I'm misreading.

My understanding of the heart of what you're struggling with is that you're trying NOT to want something you actually desire (women) and you're trying to MAKE yourself desire something you don't actually want (empathy). That's a tough spot to be in.

If I were to guess at what the question you're asking is, it would be something like, "Given what's happened to me, is there something wrong with me for having a hard time finding empathy for women?

I might be in the minority, but I don't think there's anything wrong with feeling frustrated/resentful/angry/ashamed/despair. It's even okay to feel those things towards a certain person or group of people, provided you aren't acting on those feelings in a harmful way to others or yourself.

It's possible painful things happened to you that were not your fault and it's okay to be angry about it. I also think it's relatively common reaction for people to want something and fear it at the same time or to be angry at themselves or the thing they want because they don't believe they can get it.

So I guess the question becomes given that a) We can't undo the past and b) that we have the rest of our lives ahead of us...what do we do NOW?

I don't know, man. What do you think?

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Post by nolorn on Sun Oct 05, 2014 2:31 am

Dan_Brodribb wrote:From what I'm reading, nolorn, it sounds like you're carrying around some resentment or anger towards women. It also sounds like you believe women hold you in contempt, even women who are strangers on the internet who have never even met you. It also sounds like you've had tough interaction with the female members of your family.

I hope you'll set me straight if I'm misreading.

My understanding of the heart of what you're struggling with is that you're trying NOT to want something you actually desire (women) and you're trying to MAKE yourself desire something you don't actually want (empathy). That's a tough spot to be in.


I don't know, man. What do you think?

To be honest I don't know.

You are pretty spot on- I wish I was not attracted to women, or anyone at all, in any romantic context, and don't much care for sensitivity excercises, I will admit I do have an academic curiosity of what dating is for women is like, but I don't know if I will get anything out of that to better my situation, after all, psycopaths- people with little capacity for empathy- are known for being sexually active, and successful.

My only concrete plan is to get a BS in Electrical Engineering before I am 25, get down to at most 180 lbs, get a career I am really excited in, working for a company I am really into, travel Europe, make a souffle, go to a concert once and save up for plastic surgery, so that at least I will be attractive to women, or be old enough so that I will be in a cohort where women aren't (hopefully) as hung up on looks as women in their 20s are.

Still I'll kinda miss not having a girlfriend in my 20s and experience 'young love'.

Oh well.

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Post by Guest on Sun Oct 05, 2014 4:31 am

I think you're romanticizing 'young love'. I bet those relationships have their own problems to do with inexperience and unrealistic expectations.

I highly doubt plastic surgery will bring you lasting happiness. It's not the magic elixir that solves all or even most of your dating woes. Why? Because women aren't stupid.

I feel like an attractive personality is like the 7 secret herbs and spices that takes ordinary chicken to a whole other level. If I could look like Tom Hiddleston (oh, lawd) tomorrow, it wouldn't do me much good since I'd still be stuck with the same shitty personality. It would be as dumb as trying to drive an F1 car that doesn't come with an engine.

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Post by kleenestar on Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:49 am

I think your goals for yourself sound really good, but I'd suggest you stop and think about whether you'll actually be happy if your plan works. You say that you will work on your appearance to find a partner, which suggests that if it works, you'll likely end up with a partner who primarily cares about your appearance and possibly lacks empathy herself. I don't see anything wrong with that if that's what you want, but I don't want to see you put in a lot of effort and then be disappointed when you find that you've only successfully attracted people who are shallow and/or users.
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Post by kleenestar on Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:50 am

Also, as someone who met her partner at nineteen, I'm happy to talk about relationships of people in their twenties that have very little to do with the media image of "young love" if that would help.
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