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Old 08.09.2015, 08:56
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Re: Empathy and culture

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Being me I'm a bit quirky...


Whenever I'm in the Baucenter and see some poor soul staring helplessly at a wall of plumbing fixtures or screws or such, if there are no staff around (increasingly the case) I will generally ask what they are trying to make or fix.


Time was the taboo against talking to strangers was a lot stronger, whereas I used to get a reaction of shock, that is no longer the case.


Empathy is not _just_ about major problems, it is more basic than that.
A while back I was considering undertaking a minor electrical wiring job around the house. I took myself off to the local Baucenter and looking at all the options, was puzzling over what I needed. A man evidently noticed my dilemma and started explaining a few basics (maybe it was Jagwaugh) but in my ignorance, I felt a bit overwhelmed and was rather cold to him. At home I thought over the things that he had said and suddenly my needs became clear and I could proceed with the work.

He must have thought that I was cold and ungrateful but afterwards I really vaued what he had told me. So keep it up Jagwaugh!
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  #22  
Old 08.09.2015, 09:03
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Re: Empathy and culture

I was on the tram the other day and a poor old woman with one of those trolly type zimmer frames was struggling to position herself into a seat next to a woman. The woman just stared for what felt like ages, said nothing, after about a minute of this, the woman just got up and walked to another part of the carriage without offering any help or saying anything to the old lady. That was an extreme lack of both empathy and sympathy. I on the other hand raised my book to my face and nonchalantly continued to read. Of course the old dear had taken her seat by then.

Last edited by TobiasM; 08.09.2015 at 10:22.
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Old 08.09.2015, 09:12
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Re: Empathy and culture

Empathy vs sympathy:
"Sympathy is literally 'feeling with' - compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally 'feeling into' - the ability to project one's personality into another person and more fully understand that person."
Source

In my opinion, empathy does not mean that one always runs to help when someone looks like they _might_ want it, but also the fine-tuned ability to distinguish what is necessary in the moment: Is it practical help, is it a listening ear, is it distance or is it something else?

Practical example: If one were to have a fall and appear injured, that person might want to be taken to hospital by bystanders. But he might just as well simply want a phone to call his care provider, or a hand to help him get up to then continue, unaided, along his path, or want his partner to come and pick him up rather than a stranger or friend. Perhaps he wants no advice or offer of advice at all, wants "helpers" to back the hell off and to just to find out his way on his own.

It can be hard to find out what is best in the heat of the moment, because naturally people's needs differ.

If I run into a complex situation here, I like the "Can I help you, and if so, how?" approach. This way, the asked can decide if and which help is wanted, and doesn't feel intruded upon.
On a bus one day, the driver had to slam on the brakes. A lady injured herself (a cut/scratch) in the process. Some passengers just stared, while some mumbled and some asked those sitting next to them questions.
I got up and gave the lady my full packet of tissues to clean herself up, the driver got out of his seat and asked her if she was OK. When she was about to get off, she told the driver she was intending to visit a doctor for the injury. I asked her if she'd like me to walk part of the way to the doc's office with her (not the whole way, because who her doc is is none of my business and she might want some privacy) since I was going in the same direction anyway. She kindly said no thank you, I'm fine, but thanks a lot for the tissues. Which was perfectly OK for me, I wished her well. When I got off the bus, I got a rare smile from the bus driver, who wished me a nice day and said thanks for helping the lady.
I feel that if I had "made" her let me accompany her to the doc, I would've pissed her off, and that asking and offering help (also in the form of tissues) while letting the lady help herself was the best way to go.

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MITGEFüHL & EINFüHLUNGSVERMöGEN
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Old 08.09.2015, 09:21
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Re: Empathy and culture

Surely Bern is the place to find an empathy. Ethpecially when you want to renew your pathport.

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I went to Dresden for 10 days in April 1988, and I didn't like it there & I never went back. I grew up in London, but I would never live there.

I am happy living in Morat-Murten, are the people here empathic? I don't think so, but I have maybe changed to meet them in empathy.

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  #25  
Old 08.09.2015, 09:23
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Re: Empathy and culture

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A while back I was considering undertaking a minor electrical wiring job around the house. I took myself off to the local Baucenter and looking at all the options, was puzzling over what I needed. A man evidently noticed my dilemma and started explaining a few basics (maybe it was Jagwaugh) but in my ignorance, I felt a bit overwhelmed and was rather cold to him. At home I thought over the things that he had said and suddenly my needs became clear and I could proceed with the work.

He must have thought that I was cold and ungrateful but afterwards I really vaued what he had told me. So keep it up Jagwaugh!


I rarely venture outside of the ZH baucenter area, so there must be two of us (perish the thought!)
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  #26  
Old 08.09.2015, 09:29
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Re: Empathy and culture

There are times when empathy is as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Empathising with someone about something may make that person feel better (good thing) but if that person has just had their leg half amputated they'll feel a lot better if empathy is thrown out the window and someone gets on with applying a ligature and going for help.

Its worth remembering too that not every person will define empathy in the same way and that although one person may define another empathic, to a third person that may not be so clear.
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Old 08.09.2015, 09:30
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Re: Empathy and culture

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I was on the tram the other day and a poor old woman with one of those trolly type zimmer frames was struggling to position herself into a seat next to a woman. The woman just stared for what felt like ages, said nothing, after about a minute of this, the woman just got up and walked to another part of the carriage without offering any help or saying anything to the old lady. That was an extreme lack of both empathy and sympathy. I on the other hand raised my book to my face and nonchalantly continued to read. :roll eyes: Of course the old dear had taken her seat by then.
I can see how it felt that way to you. Here is another, perhaps more Swiss way of looking at it though:

The woman who was already seated saw the older lady struggling a bit, made eye contact to acknowledge her, then waited patiently in case her help would be asked for.* When she understood that the old lady apparently did not want help, but was not succeeding well alone either, she moved away to another part of the carriage to at least give the lady some extra space to maneuver.

------------------------

*By and large, the cultural norm here is that the person needing help should ask: if you don't ask it's a signal that you don't want/need help. Elderly Swiss people in particular tend to be very keen on looking and feeling independent as far as possible, and offers of unwanted help sometimes embarrass or upset them.

Exceptions are 1) situations conventionally acknowledged as requiring two people, e.g. lifting a baby buggy in/out of one of the old trains with steps. A stranger can offer help in these situations without fear of giving offence or damaging your feeling of independence.

...and 2) situations where some previous interaction exists. For example if you've just finished buying something in a shop, the shop employee may hold the door open for you. Similarly if someone's been chatting with you on the train, that person may offer to help get your luggage down... but for a stranger to offer such help out of the blue could be embarrassing as it indicates they consider you to be incapable.

But yes, if someone is struggling at what would normally be a one-person job, e.g. getting themselves on and off the tram, local custom is to offer sympathetic eye contact ("here I am, I am a person you could ask if you need to") and then wait to be asked.
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Old 08.09.2015, 09:38
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Re: Empathy and culture

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But yes, if someone is struggling at what would normally be a one-person job, e.g. getting themselves on and off the tram, local custom is to offer sympathetic eye contact ("here I am, I am a person you could ask if you need to") and then wait to be asked.
Perhaps we're living in a different Switzerland because I noticed that in such situations involving older people struggling at something there's always, always at least one person rushing to help without waiting to be asked.
In other circumstances, what you noticed might be valid.
But I'm already accustomed to reading things about "Swiss culture" that don't really fit my experiences/views.

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After nearly 30 years here, I still find that the Swiss in general behave as if what is not happening _to them personally_ is simply not happening. I don't think the Swiss are unkind, but they can be a bit insular, for want of a better term.
That wouldn't explain why the Swiss are constantly donating money for all sort of causes in the world. I don't have any data and don't have time now to look for it - re.how many Swiss volunteers are active as we speak. (at the moment I'm helping someone with a development project in another country and was surprised by the deep understanding of the area)
So. Opinions, as people - vary. Or perhaps "culture" means nothing.

Last edited by greenmount; 08.09.2015 at 09:52.
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  #29  
Old 08.09.2015, 10:13
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Re: Empathy and culture

In German, Sympathisch means likable.

To save time in writing it myself I will just post a link:
http://grammarist.com/usage/empathy-sympathy/
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Old 08.09.2015, 10:29
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Re: Empathy and culture

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Being me I'm a bit quirky...


Whenever I'm in the Baucenter and see some poor soul staring helplessly at a wall of plumbing fixtures or screws or such, if there are no staff around (increasingly the case) I will generally ask what they are trying to make or fix.


Time was the taboo against talking to strangers was a lot stronger, whereas I used to get a reaction of shock, that is no longer the case.


Empathy is not _just_ about major problems, it is more basic than that.
I have the same urge as you when I see people who are obviously lost or tourists with big question marks in their eyes. Or at the airport or train station when people struggle with luggage or ticket machines. I guess I was a tour guide in a previous life, but I can't help asking if people need help.
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Old 08.09.2015, 10:42
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Re: Empathy and culture

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I can see how it felt that way to you. Here is another, perhaps more Swiss way of looking at it though:

The woman who was already seated saw the older lady struggling a bit, made eye contact to acknowledge her, then waited patiently in case her help would be asked for.* When she understood that the old lady apparently did not want help, but was not succeeding well alone either, she moved away to another part of the carriage to at least give the lady some extra space to maneuver.

------------------------

*By and large, the cultural norm here is that the person needing help should ask: if you don't ask it's a signal that you don't want/need help. Elderly Swiss people in particular tend to be very keen on looking and feeling independent as far as possible, and offers of unwanted help sometimes embarrass or upset them.

Exceptions are 1) situations conventionally acknowledged as requiring two people, e.g. lifting a baby buggy in/out of one of the old trains with steps. A stranger can offer help in these situations without fear of giving offence or damaging your feeling of independence.

...and 2) situations where some previous interaction exists. For example if you've just finished buying something in a shop, the shop employee may hold the door open for you. Similarly if someone's been chatting with you on the train, that person may offer to help get your luggage down... but for a stranger to offer such help out of the blue could be embarrassing as it indicates they consider you to be incapable.

But yes, if someone is struggling at what would normally be a one-person job, e.g. getting themselves on and off the tram, local custom is to offer sympathetic eye contact ("here I am, I am a person you could ask if you need to") and then wait to be asked.
That reminds me of when we were in Japan in April. Once we were on the bus and the oldest lady I have ever seen got up with her grocery bags. I swear, she looked over a 100 years old and walked extremely slowly and unsteadily, basically bent in two. The driver kindly offered to help her (a very natural thing, I myself was afraid she would die while climbing up), but she looked at him proudly and said something in Japanese that must have meant "back-off, I can manage and you can wait", because he crept back to his seat and waited for her to be settled before driving on. I'm sure she would have refused an offered seat if the bus had been full. She looked quite the survivor, I guess her pride lied in being able to manage by herself.

I'm always careful when offering help, there is a thin line for the receiving between interpreting the offer as a display of genuine empathy and interpreting it as unwelcome meddling in one's own affairs. And in some cases, people have enough with their own problems, they don't want to be distressed by you feeling sorry for them. I try to fell "with" people, but not impose my feelings on them, if you get my drift.
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Old 08.09.2015, 10:55
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Re: Empathy and culture

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I have the same urge as you when I see people who are obviously lost or tourists with big question marks in their eyes. Or at the airport or train station when people struggle with luggage or ticket machines. I guess I was a tour guide in a previous life, but I can't help asking if people need help.

Same here. I approach people in the tram stops in front of Basel SBB if they look completely lost- especially if they're waiting for a tram in the "wrong" direction (i.e. going out of town).
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Old 08.09.2015, 11:04
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Re: Empathy and culture

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That wouldn't explain why the Swiss are constantly donating money for all sort of causes in the world. I don't have any data and don't have time now to look for it - re.how many Swiss volunteers are active as we speak. (at the moment I'm helping someone with a development project in another country and was surprised by the deep understanding of the area)
So. Opinions, as people - vary. Or perhaps "culture" means nothing.

I was referring to situations where there is direct personal contact, like at a bus stop. I am surprised at how many people will stand and watch a mother with a toddler AND a pram struggle to get all three of them into the Tram/Bus.
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  #34  
Old 08.09.2015, 11:15
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Re: Empathy and culture

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in German language the word Empathie does exist theoretically but not in practice. The words to be used are
MITGEFüHL & EINFüHLUNGSVERMöGEN
An important distinction, though I'm not sure I'd agree.

In my mind Einfühlungsvermögen describes the ability to reproduce (so to say) another persons feeling without suffering the situation. That's empathy.

Mitgefühl OTOH describes the effect of applying Einfühlungsvermögen - feeling with somebody without actually suffering the situation. I think that's one meaning of sympathy (the other one being, feeling friendly towards somebody).
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Old 08.09.2015, 13:22
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Re: Empathy and culture

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I was referring to situations where there is direct personal contact, like at a bus stop. I am surprised at how many people will stand and watch a mother with a toddler AND a pram struggle to get all three of them into the Tram/Bus.

I feel irritated. When you are helping you hardly have time to see how many People are just watching
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Old 08.09.2015, 16:22
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Re: Empathy and culture

I always ask elders, "darf ich Ihnen behilflich sein" ( may i be of assistance) before rushing in. Five times out of ten I'll get a knock back.
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Old 08.09.2015, 16:41
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Re: Empathy and culture

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I have the same urge as you when I see people who are obviously lost or tourists with big question marks in their eyes. Or at the airport or train station when people struggle with luggage or ticket machines. I guess I was a tour guide in a previous life, but I can't help asking if people need help.

British tourists are one category of human being I try to have as little contact with as possible. I used to offer help in the situations you describe, but got knocked back so often and so rudely, I just gave up.


The ones who get the train from Zurich to Chur (presumably to connect with trains to Davos, St Moritz and elsewhere) are the biggest tossers of all: rude, entitled, obnoxious. When I hear English voices I take care to remain silent lest they (or anyone else on the train) should confuse me with one of their own.


Americans, on the other hand, are great. I'll offer help to anyone with an American accent because they're sure to appreciate it - even if it turns out that they already live here!
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Old 08.09.2015, 17:10
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Re: Empathy and culture

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Americans, on the other hand, are great. I'll offer help to anyone with an American accent because they're sure to appreciate it - even if it turns out that they already live here!
Sorry but are you being serious? I guess my sarcasm detector is weak today.. Maybe old/retired American tourists are fine. But those young and obnoxious ones? I can't stand them.
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Old 08.09.2015, 17:10
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Re: Empathy and culture

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I was referring to situations where there is direct personal contact, like at a bus stop. I am surprised at how many people will stand and watch a mother with a toddler AND a pram struggle to get all three of them into the Tram/Bus.
This is really true, and I thought we were struck by this lacking "takes a village" spirit only here, on the Golden Coast. I always help, young moms especially don't get much aid, it feels weird to have them so grateful as if one did something extraordinary. I think it might be also the fact transport is packed, people tend to be really tired and edgy when they get off work, but still. I check on my elderly neighbor, so she does not have to call her elderly sister to take care of her shopping, and get yet another ott reaction, as if I was doing something bizarrely out of the cultural expectations. I guess we all just keep our own rules and standards, as high as we want them to be, bring them in, develop them...adjust if we consider the need.
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Old 08.09.2015, 17:22
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Re: Empathy and culture

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This is really true, and I thought we were struck by this lacking "takes a village" spirit only here, on the Golden Coast. I always help, young moms especially don't get much aid, it feels weird to have them so grateful as if one did something extraordinary. I think it might be also the fact transport is packed, people tend to be really tired and edgy when they get off work, but still. I check on my elderly neighbor, so she does not have to call her elderly sister to take care of her shopping, and get yet another ott reaction, as if I was doing something bizarrely out of the cultural expectations. I guess we all just keep our own rules and standards, as high as we want them to be, bring them in, develop them...adjust if we consider the need.
When I see someone either old and frail or a mother with pushchair, baby and toddler I always help out. Usually by shoving them off so the tram driver can close the doors and get on the way.

This helps everyone else on the tram get home a few seconds earlier. The needs of the few are outweighed by the needs of the many.

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