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Question
Posted by: Blossom | 2011/03/04

Pity vs empathy

A friend(long distance) of mine was telling me the other day how lonely he is.Due to the nature of his job this is a problem.Immediately I launched into " good friend"  mode- and tried to be supportive,listen,encourage as best as I could,reassure that I am always here to listen when needed-and I have done this before and he has thanked me for my support and concern.You can imagine my shock when a while later I receive an sms saying " thank you,but I dont need your pity" - very terse and offish.In no way was I regarding this person as " pitiful" - I was,in my mind trying to have empathy.When I responded(I guess rather angrily) that they need to look at the difference between empathy and pity,I was asked " why I always take things so personally" !!Well,if that isnt personal....Anyway,I have felt very despondent about this friendship since then-as if my intentions have been totally misunderstood,but if I try and explain anything,knowing this friend the way I do,it wont make any differencel.Since then he has tried to make small talk via sms,but I have no desire to respond.
The thing is,am I being oversensitive?This outburst of his came after a period where he had been distant,not replied to emails/sms''s,so I suspected he was dealing with personal issues,and without prying was trying to offer support- which was thrown back at me.Should I just back off totally...what do I do?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Well, maybe you took things a bit personally, but so did he - and he was probably pre-primed by feeling ashamed of being at all needy, and ashamed that he might attract some pity. And what, after all, is all that awful about pity ?
Don't remain offended, and maybe send one simple massage saying you're sorry for getting angry ; you'd meant to be sympathetic, and remain available if he wants to chat or vent, or not to involve you at this stage, and you hope things work out well for him

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Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/03/05

Well, maybe you took things a bit personally, but so did he - and he was probably pre-primed by feeling ashamed of being at all needy, and ashamed that he might attract some pity. And what, after all, is all that awful about pity ?
Don't remain offended, and maybe send one simple massage saying you're sorry for getting angry ; you'd meant to be sympathetic, and remain available if he wants to chat or vent, or not to involve you at this stage, and you hope things work out well for him

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