navigating a conversation to ensure solidarity does not bleed into narcissism

Bonds between individuals are most often rooted in and solidified by shared experience*. This does not refer to instances that are lived through simultaneously; rather, possession of the ability to resonate with our peers by taking our own lived experience and using it as a lens of understanding when approaching theirs. It’s comforting to know that in times of splendor and in times of strife (especially those of the latter), we are not completely alone.

When we are met by or witness a peer who is struggling, I think that it is completely natural to want to reassure them their though their exact hardship may be unique, the root of the issue is a common theme and able to be overcome.

When we dominate a conversation, desperate to let people know that their experience should not be isolating, we think we are helping – deepening a relationship and attempting to absorb some of the other person’s hurt and lessen their burden. Often these interjections have the purest of intentions, but in being quick to relate to someone with a personal anecdote, we are invalidating the experience of someone else and (perhaps unintentionally) depriving them the ability to confide in us.  They are not receiving the catharsis they seek simply by speaking to their issues, never mind acquiring helpful advice.

Keep this in mind when conversing with your peers today.  Let them express what has happened to them and how they are reacting to/processing it before you let me know that something vaguely similar happened to you six months ago. This opportunity will present itself. They know you are someone who will be able to relate; after all, that is why they approached you with this issue to begin with.

Happy chatting,


*Rereading that sentence, my first thought was duh. You obviously have to have a considerable amount with those you spend time with.  Sure, opposites attract, but I’m curious if people feel deeply connected with those they have nothing in common with. 


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