You could have said something to make them feel better…

by Rod Smith

In your response to the young man who can’t find an engineering job (You and Me, February 7, 2006) I see almost no sympathy on your part. Things are tough. A lot of people are jobless. Could you have said something to make this parent and young man feel just a little better?

Of course I could have and my identification with the dilemma would only serve to entrench the “victim feelings” in both parent and son. Neither empathy nor sympathy will get a young man an engineering job or a job of any kind.

Times are tough for many people and jobs are not easy to find. Yet, at the same time, many people are gainfully and wonderfully employed. So, if some are, and some are not, I’d suggest this young man do all he can to switch sides! Easy? Of course not! Life is tough. Feeling sorry for someone just makes life even tougher.

Do not be fooled by the power of empathy, for it is often quite useless, and avoid the debilitating virus of sympathy. Feeling for, or feeling with, someone (empathy) or feeling pity for someone (sympathy) might lead to warm feelings, but warm feelings, in themselves, are hardly likely to get an engineer a job.  

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