The empathy intervention was a difficult one for me because its a concept I have put a lot of thought into in the past. It was a couple years ago when I realized how irrational I was being the majority of the time I was irritated at someone. Road rage for instance, is almost always hypocritical and I have acknowledged that whatever driver I am upset with has probably been me on another day. I began to notice the human need to blame someone else when we are inconvenienced and I believe that is one of the main reasons we lack empathy for each other. Now when I find myself in situations like these I tend to immediately acknowledge that the other person has done nothing worth being mad about and it is my mood that needs to improve. It was difficult for me to notice a brand new situation where I lacked empathy until last week when I was giving a presentation for one of my classes. I am not the most confident in public speaking and tend to fidget or lose my train of thought. While I was speaking I found that my tendency was to make eye contact with the people in front who were paying attention. I would sometimes wonder if I was explaining myself clearly and then notice a student nodding, and regain confidence. I related this experience to how some teachers must feel when speaking to a class that may not look interested. As a student who frequently spaces out or distracted during class I now see how these actions could affect the person who is trying hard to teach the class while keeping students interested and involved.
I pride myself in being a very open and nonjudgmental person, I always feel that I would hate if someone judged me quickly so I do my best to not judge others. However, although I don’t think I have obvious prejudices or misconceptions I am learning that they can be very subtle and part of my subconscious. For example, when I see someone who is extremely overweight I don’t want to look down on them or treat them any differently I would anyone else. I try to think about their situation and maybe they have had a tough family life and upbringing or maybe they have crippling stress and that it is something they could change but are just having a hard time with it because of these issues. Although I was trying to not look down upon them or treat them any differently I kind of was and was also making an assumption. One night I took an uber home and my driver was extremely overweight. I had similar thought processes of “oh even though he put himself in this position I am going treat him as I would any person I meet because I want to be a good person and he deserves that.” I started talking to him and eventually our conversation led to him telling me of a medical condition he had with his thyroid making him gain weight and making it very difficult to lose it. I was taken aback because I had never considered this possibility that he had almost no control over his situation. He was a very smart and kind person despite his medical condition and was very open about it. Just like people can’t control where they are born, the color of their skin, he was born with it and decided to be happy despite the condescension received from people like me assuming he could change his situation if he wanted. I realized that even though I am not making harsh judgement I can still make unfair assumptions without knowing the whole story.
I have looked at some areas in my life that I feel could benefit from increased empathy. I came up with a few aspects of my life that I tried to practice more empathy in. First was empathy for my neighbors. Being a college student, my schedule differs quite a bit from my 9-5 neighbors. The main conflict being late night activities. This past week I really tried to limit the noise coming from my house as a courtesy to my neighbors. At first it was easy but quickly the arguments with my roommates about volume control left a sour taste in my mouth. It made me realize the compromises that people must make in order for communal happiness. I can say now that my neighbors appreciated the break and me and my roommates are more conscientious about the amount of noise we make. A second area in my life that I felt needed more empathy was for my coworkers. I am guilty of complaining about things in my life while at the same time never asking how they are doing. This past week I also tried to get to know my coworkers a little better and ask them about themselves as opposed to telling them about my day. This was actually my favorite part of the intervention and really caused me to get to know my coworkers on a more personal level. I also noticed this helped improve our communication skills and made us more aware of the different things we do around the office that upset us. I feel like this really benefited my experience at work and caused all my coworkers to work more efficiently and with better attitudes. This wasn’t a magic bullet however, and a lot of the time I felt like my probing questions might be getting me no where. In the end I feel It was a very positive thing however.
I have had an interesting year and can’t say that is has been the best but I am positive that things will get better. Relating that statement to this intervention, one of the unfortunate things that happend this year was that a close family member that I frequently see, got robbed A LOT of money. A little background on this person is that they moved here from a different country when they were 20 years old and left their family to pursue a better life, while barely knowing any English. This person eventually opened a restaurant and are there all day during their opening hours for seven days a week, except for the occasional day off. Because of this, it isn’t surprising that they are always tired, especially having endured this industry for 19 years. Then one night (June) while they were there by themselves and of course, the surveillance cameras being down for some reason, my family member gets robbed with 5 people surrounding them. We contacted the police and we were not able to recover the money.
Currently, my family member has escalated the tension surrounding our family. It has gotten much more difficult for my sister and me, as we have to be at the business more frequently while carrying a full load of school. In addition, my sister and I frequently get asked to do A LOT of things, and some of these requests are to the extreme and are very strange yet it has to be executed otherwise a fit occurs. Overall, this situation is complicated. However, seeing where this person has originated from and also experiencing the amount of effort and time that has been put into the business, to then having a large portion of their income get stolen has been very emotionally tolling for everyone but more to my family member that experienced it as it happend. Although I get very frustrated having to put effort into a task that I think won’t be beneficial to the situation, it is beneficial to the person that I am helping and that is something that I need to continue reminding myself. Although I can’t fully be in that person’s shoes, I understand that long term emotional endurance is unhealthy and can have negative effects. By understanding that, I can see past the task at hand and hope that it will help more than being superficial about the situation.
This week I went through a difficult experience with my family that challenged me in a few personal ways. My aunt who has struggled with alcoholism since the death of her husband has been somewhat dependent on my mom and my grandparents for the last few years. Her alcoholism has driven her to act in erratic and selfish ways, especially to the detriment of my younger cousin. A boy who has not only lost his father, but now his mother in a bitter decline. She attempted to harm herself this week by driving her car into a wall, a cry for help that my mother was left to pick up the pieces of. When I talked to my mom, who has just retired after working all her life and taking care of others and who had plans to move away to start a new business, has to now put that on hold to yet again support and care for my aunt in her recovery. I could sense that my mother was clearly discouraged when I spoke with her, but the remarkable compassion that she has maintained for her sister was still present. I think that her display of empathy in such a dark circumstance helped me in that moment to abandon my personal frustration with my aunt, for the harm she has caused to the ones I love and see her in a kinder light. It allowed me to once more choose to address the suffering she has endured and that brought her to this point. It is always more uncomfortable for me to recognize her pain, but in doing so I was able to see her beyond these issues and reconnect to the part of her experience that we are all inextricably tied to.
Saba Belay Kassa:
Since moving to San Luis Obispo I have encountered a plethora of people mostly sweet, however, one particular person, who I happen to see a lot has really been getting on my nerves, she has this ‘toxic’ energy about her – she is in the habit of constantly getting angry over the smallest inconveniences, for example, how someone is driving, the way people are parked, the way you walk, how loud someone is on the phone etc. she constantly complains about everything, and what’s worse is how she disguises it as “being blunt/or honest” when in actuality it is just rude. I often feel like I am walking on eggshells around her – unable to speak truthfully or confidently for that matter without feeling like she might freak out. Initially, I just kind of ignored it but recently I feel like her ‘toxic energy’ has really been weighing me down and influencing my outlook, and enthusiasm for life. I am generally a pretty positive person but having to interact with this sort of energy on a daily basis is just taking a lot of my positivity away from me.
So, for this exercise, I decided to inquire about her life and upbringing – you know to empathize with her. Instead of ‘othering’ her as just bad energy or a ‘toxic’ person, I asked questions about her life to see why and what has made her react so intensely to what to me seems like minor issues. Here, I discovered through our conversations that her mom often had really rigid standards for her behavior, and her parents were pretty forceful with what she was allowed to do, at one point she even referred to her mom as a “narcissist.” Another thing she mentioned was a recent injury she had sustained that I had just dismissed as her usual complaining but which is in actuality a huge interference and pain in her day to day life. She is suffering, in more ways than one, with no real outlet and no-one who feels or understands her pain this must be incredibly lonely, and frustrating. So, when something goes wrong that pain seeps into her reaction, perhaps if I was constantly in pain I wouldn’t be as patient with minor intereferences/problems in my life. And, although I don’t condone her behavior I understand why she sometimes seems impatient. Both pain/disability and upbringing are two features that have a huge impact on your life, and it’s difficult to just ignore them, and go on with your life however, I worry that her behavior will isolate her from people in her life. I hope she finds a better coping mechanism for her pain because otherwise she is a great girl!
For the longest time I have been bothered by a neighbor of mine. I found this individual to be unaware of herself and annoying, even rude in certain circumstances. This person does not have a lot of friends and always attempts to reach out to people but does not seem to know how to do it in a kind and approachable manner. I have always said hello but avoided her when possible as many others do and simply gone about my business. I made a conscious effort this week, however, for the empathy intervention and offered for her to join some friends and me to go to farmers market and to get dinner on a separate night of the week. I am so glad that I did so. I was able to hear her story and gain knowledge about her as a person and where she comes from. It turns out she has a history of being emotionally abused by a member of her family and she has severe social anxiety as a result. She is one of the sweetest, most down to earth people in my life at the moment. Since I have empathized and reached out to her, I now have a much better understanding of her situation and was able to relate to her on multiple levels. I now consider her a friend and actually reach out to her and I hope to become friends outside of our building.
This weekend I visited a party with a couple of friends. I was having a great time until all of a sudden in the middle of the room we were dancing in a girl fell on top of 4 people and caused a large commotion.I noticed immediately that this girl was beyond intoxicated and obviously needed help and immediate 3 or 4 kids rushed over to help her up and move her to a spot that she could rest. She was at the brink of blacking out completely and probably would have if the people around her did not help. The entire time I was thinking, this isn’t my problem. It is her problem that she got too drunk at this party and she made her own decisions. For the remainder of the party I continued to dance and have fun while this girl was struggling to stay awake and cope with the alcohol in her system. I continued to brush it off but the more I witnessed the more my thoughts shifted from what I originally thought. I was certain that I would never be in this situation in my life but I looked around me and saw how many people were blowing it off exactly how I was. Even if I would probably never get this drunk I knew that at some point I may need help from people I had never met before and I realized I was just treating this girl as some an “other”. After thinking about all this I went over to provide my help to this girl and ended up working with another guy to pick this girl up and put her on a bench outside so we could wait for the ambulance to arrive. Even though it felt good that I helped someone the main emotion I felt at the end of the night was empathy. The only reason I helped her is because I knew that she needed people and at that moment I understood her feelings. Understanding how someone may be feeling is the definition of empathy.
I feel a little ashamed writing this, but there was a good outcome so here we go! This past week I worked on empathizing with a specific person that I’ve had classes with for the past 2 years. I enjoy almost everyone I meet and really believe that everyone has something to about them to be appreciated. For some reason, I had never been able to truly think something kind of this person. Even when I’d say something positive and recognize something positive about the person it was soaked in all my other feelings that I couldn’t shake. I realized that it wasn’t because I couldn’t think all the negative things about the person, but instead that I didn’t want to change how I thought because I felt justified in my feelings.
I broke down what it was that bothered me so much and started working through all the ways I’ve categorized this person, all the ways I’ve put the person in boxes without really knowing anything real about the person. I’m currently in another group project with this person, so it was a good time to work through my annoyances and actually try to change how I think of the person. I’ve started asking real questions and when the person does something that pisses me off I ask why he/she feels that way to better understand where he/she is coming from. I don’t agree with a lot of the reasoning I’ve heard, but I understand a lot better now and can respect that this person has a different way of prioritizing and making decisions. It’s helped a lot and made me feel silly for holding onto all the negativity I did for the past 2 years.
This empathy intervention proved to be somewhat of a challenge for me, and I had a hard time at first finding moments in my day where I could consider how I might be more empathetic. I decided to take a step back and instead consider how I empathize with others, and just observe my mental faculties of empathy and compassion and how I apply them throughout my day. I realized that I most frequently “otherized” people when I was angry or frustrated, and these emotions typically stem from some other issue within myself. It dawned on me how hypocritical my frustration with others can be. For example, I get upset with others when they drive poorly, though I am not immune to making mistakes while driving and other drivers have probably felt frustration towards me as well. I found that my internal stress levels often contributed to the frustration that, in turn, leads to a lack of empathy. In the moment, it is very easy to give into the entitled feelings of stress-induced frustration. I typically feel this way when surrounded by many people in a somewhat chaotic environment where I feel that I don’t have any control. I am somewhat introverted by nature, and thus it’s easy for me to feel frustrated at the fact that there are simply too many people near me making too much noise. The most distinct moment of this during the empathy intervention was when I was waiting in line at Starbucks. I had spent a long day on campus already, and had anticipated that the line would be almost nonexistent so late in the day. However, instead I found that a large tour group of young teenagers were already in line. They were ordering non-caffeinated drinks before going to the arcade, letting their friends cut in line, and not respecting the line etiquette that most students would. I was upset that I would have to wait so long, and felt that my time was more valuable in that moment, as I had homework to do and coffee to drink. I found myself “otherizing” them, which manifested itself in part as me being angry towards them as a group. In the midst of my frustration I remembered the empathy intervention. I thought about how when I was that age, and how others might have been annoyed at my friends and I, and how much fun we had regardless. I remembered my priorities when I was their age, and how I cared so much about social interactions with my peers that I had little awareness of how I might be effecting those around me. I realized that these kids were probably touring our school for the first time, and this might be the visit that inspires some of them to attend Cal Poly one day. Lastly, I reminded myself that they have as much of a right to be there as I do, and that they intended no ill will. It was my reaction to their presence that caused my frustration. The kids in line simply wanted a tasty drink and to hang out with their friends, and there was no real reason for me to otherize them. In doing so, I only cause harm to myself and benefit no one. I will remember this experience and prioritize empathy whenever I experience something similar in the future.
Ever since I was 15 I have been working in the food industry. I started off working at a little league snack bar, then a pizzeria, then a few restaurants since I’ve been in college. I think due to this, it makes me a little more patient, kind, and giving to those who work in the food industry as well. I am currently a server at a restaurant in Shell Beach, and I’ve noticed I’m consistently frustrated when I believe I’ve done everything on my part to give excellent service to my guests, and I’m left with a tip under 15-20%. I can slightly understand when something goes wrong with the order, but even then, me and my fellow coworkers are only human and mistakes happen. What really grinds my gears are those who have asked for me to comp something because they didn’t like it, even though they ate all of the expensive crab and left only the salad that is nearly nothing to buy. Then, I receive a $5 tip on a $150 bill. Or I don’t understand those who come in, eat, and tip me with their words. Sorry Bob, but your words aren’t paying for my bills. I sound like a bitter server, yes? But serving is hard work, and no one thing is going to satisfy every single person. I try my best to gage how my guests are: whether they want to talk or be left alone, whether they’ll need ketchup before their fries come out or if they’re okay with me choosing the wine they drink that night. However, I’m going to try this weekend to be a little more empathetic to those that don’t tip well and start putting myself in their shoes… Maybe they forgot it was their anniversary, and had little to no money in their account but knew their significant other was going to be disappointed if they didn’t do something special for them; maybe they’re foreign and weren’t aware of the tipping procedure in the US (although most foreigners do tip me pretty well); maybe they forgot their wallet and left the cash they saved for the tip at home.. I’ll follow up with how I feel after this weekend (I was gone last weekend and didn’t work).
Follow up: So I worked this weekend on Friday night and Saturday morning. I can honestly say that Friday night proved to be a very good one with very generous folks, however, Saturday during the day I was left to the restaurant by myself for an hour and a half and had about 8 or 9 tables who all came in around the same time. This was very stressful, but the guests I had (for the most part) seemed to understand I was busy. I had only 2 tables whom I knew were very annoyed and I tried to empathize, because yes, they had to wait longer for their drinks to arrive…I took a little longer to get to their table to take their order and they were very hungry, i presumed. I even comped one meal by 20% and the table left a little under 15%. I tried not to take it personally, and even though it was certainly hard to empathize enough, I did my best. For now, I believe this is still a unsolved intervention in which it will take time to adapt to.
I have been working in restarants since the my first month into college. I knew I had to pay a large portion of my bills while I was here so I thought serving would be the best way for me to make money quick. I think many servers know that we stereotype the guests that walk into the restaraunt and we can take one look at them and decide if we’re going to get a good or bad tip. This past week I was standing near the bar and this man came in and ordered a drink. When he went to pay, he just threw the $20 bill at the bartender and was extremely rude to her. Later that night the same man yelled at a group of bussers and I saying “excuse me we’re trying to walk through here”. But we were not moving and we just stood there waiting for him to pass. Immediately I wanted to run to the bartender and say “GUESS WHAT THAT MAN JUST DID” but instead I wanted to reflect on why he may have been acting that way.
I noticed that he was a part of the wedding party in the back of the restaruant. Maybe he’s the father of the bride and he is heartbroken to see his little girl grow up and he put his anger on us. Maybe the wedding didn’t go as he planned and he is frustrated with that and was being angry with us. Although I don’t know the real reason for his anger with the restaraunt staff, I realized that I have to think of what he may be going through in that moment and that it may not have been me and my coworkers who made him mad, he was frustrated from prior events. After this intervention, I am going to start trying to put myself in people’s shoes more often to think about why they act certain ways to wait staff and the amount of money I am tipped each night.
~The Blue Door~
During this past weeks empathy intervention, I found myself aware of all the things that irritate me. Most sources of irritation being others driving poorly, people biking on the sidewalk between others walking, roommates not taking out the trash, etc. But in those situations I didn’t necessarily other-ize them, and was just annoyed. I try to give people a fair chance and put myself in others shoes on a regular basis. However I’ve found one situation in my life where empathy is needed (though its still difficult for me to fully empathize). A couple weeks ago the neighbor across the street came into my roommates work. After ordering sandwiches, she approached her asking about our landlord and for his contact information. She held off on giving out the information and offered to contact him, still wondering what the issue could be. The neighbor went on too say that our front door color is too blue and she doesn’t like to look at it all day. She said that its the talk of the neighborhood and they want the landlord to paint it white or tan. She said the blue color looks too college and she and other neighbors are trying to “gentrify”the neighborhood. And that is the comment leading to me other-izing he neighbor across the street. I other-ized her because of the connotation associated with gentrification. Additionally the house she lived in had significant construction over the past year where the same men worked to paint, landscape, and completely remodel her house. I wondered where those men lived and what their front doors look like. I was angry because it was my past roommates who painted the door blue, giving us a sense of pride and individuality, especially since the past door was dingy and white. Painting the door was something our landlord approved and an affordable way to assert our own style. Along with gathering plants, the blue door makes our house feel more like home.
However, during this week, I’ve worked on empathizing with the neighbor across the street instead of other-izing her. I understand our yard is bare and doesn’t offer much visual appeal compared to other houses on the street. If I owned the house I‘m living in, there would be a lot more work put into the front yard. I understand the door is bright blue and stands out compared to the rest of the house. My roommate, who has talked to the neighbor across the street before, found out she was from the same hometown in northern California known for its homeowner associations and gated communities. Getting this information made me realize her living expectations are probably greater than mine. Also she has spent a lot of money and time waiting for her house to be remodeled, thinking a quick paint job would be easy and make her view more pleasant. I still dont agree with her view and were not painting our door, but I understand where she is coming from and can empathize.
So, I have a slightly pathetic empathy intervention…maybe because I was consumed by the stress of a looming midterm…or enjoying the weekend with family/my girlfriend.
Nevertheless, I had an encounter last Wednesday with one of my roommates. This roommate of mine was trying his best to get into the Halloween spirit a couple weeks ago by getting a pumpkin, gutting the insides, cutting holes in it, etc…resulting in a jack-o-lantern. It was quite successful for as long as a jack-o-lantern typically lasts at room temperature in an apartment.
The thing that got me “otherizing” or…not being empathetic…was the fact that the pumpkin carcass had become quite moldy, and…leaked juices all over the counter and the floor as well. It had been a couple days in which I thought he would notice and take care of the mess, but I was wrong. I caught myself cleaning the dishes getting pretty pissed off in my own mind that this “20 year old Cal Poly student wasn’t mature enough to clean up his own mess in a communal living room”. I was getting frustrated and conflicted not knowing whether it would be best to clean it up for him (and risk being the destroyer of his masterpiece), or ask him politely to clean it up (which was a tactic that failed when I asked him to try and clean his own dishes), or better yet try and be stern with him and tell him he needed to clean it up as if I was his father or something.
Then, the clouds over my own, self-interested thoughts lifted, and I realized that there must have been a rational reason that he hadn’t yet cleaned up the mess, and I thought about why that might be. It could have been because he works a lot, studies a lot, and had the time to do it. It could be that he simply hasn’t noticed it yet. It could be…that he is planning to throw it off the roof later in the week. At this point, I decided to ask him if he was alright, and if he needed any help cleaning it up rather than accuse him of any fault.
This seemed to work quite well. I found out that he did notice…and he was actually planning on throwing it off a roof, but he hadn’t yet gotten to it. By discussing it rationally and being a bit more conscious about the factors in his life (such as working lots of hours late, and having a heavy class load) that maybe were contributing to his story with the pumpkin. While the real reason was that he just wanted the pleasure of seeing a moldy pumpkin explode across the ground, our discussion avoided confrontation and got the pumpkin removed from the counter, which is the success story here. I realized that the issues surrounding a pile of dishes, a moldy pumpkin, and some of the other communal living issues I have are surrounded by different stories and perspectives (as simple as they are). I guess if I hope to solve any issues or conflicts I have with another individual, I have to be more empathetic if I want a real solution that works for everyone. The lesson is…I have to step out of my own selfish anger and listen to the facts and how their truth might be different from mine. Because while an old jack-o-lantern might seem like a moldy disgusting mess to me, to someone else, it might be an opportunity for testing gravity against the structural integrity of a pumpkin for the sake of getting a good laugh.
I’m sure in some future weeks, I may come across more emotional and complex issues with empathy…but hopefully I’ll be more prepared!
When I moved into my new house this year, we received news that we would have 6 girls in the house instead of 5. One of my roommates’ twin sister attended school last year in South Carolina and after a very fun and exciting year of meeting new friends and partying, made the decision to move to a school closer to home. For the first couple weeks, I started spending time with her and inviting her to come along with my friends and I to various events. We really started to become good friends and enjoy one another! Until one night she went way out of line. Two weeks ago at a concert she was super intoxicated and started really acting out, embarrassing me, and bragging about herself to everyone. My friends were all very uncomfortable and it ruined everyone’s night to have to deal with her. In the days that followed, I was very angry with her and she avoided me entirely for about 4 days. During that time period, I started to think about why she may have acted the way that she did. She came from a school that she loved, joined a sorority where she made a ton of friends, and felt like she really belonged. Only to be removed and forced to start over just a year later. She may have felt like an outsider that needed to prove herself in order to make friends and fit in. And if I shut her out, not only would it be extremely uncomfortable at home, but she would have way less confidence in making new friends in SLO. So I finally decided to break the ice, walk into her room and let her know I was always here to talk and that I’m not angry with her. Since then, I have been a lot more cognizant of her feelings and looked for ways to make her feel included in her new home. Everyone deserves a second chance and should be able to be there true selves all of the time.
I live in a friendly neighborhood about a half mile off of campus down Foothill Blvd. The road that I live on is occupied primarily by college students, yet there are a couple houses with families or elderly couples. Across the street from my own home there is an older lady, over ninety years old, with a particularly grouchy son who comes to visit often. Because there are many college students living on the street, parking is hard to find. Whenever a college student parks in front of their property, they get upset and even yell at the students as well as placing stickers from the police department saying they can only leave the car parked for 72 hours or it will be towed.
Initially I was very irritated at the way they responded to the situation. They should know that heavily college student populated areas are always low on parking spaces, and the street is public for anyone to use. However, this intervention forced me to consider for the first time why they respond the way that they do. It is no secret that Cal Poly continues to grow its student body size, and for this reason perhaps this predominantly college student street used to be a safe haven for older couples who wanted a quiet neighborhood away from campus. Being over 90 years old, it is possible that when she bought the house, college students didn’t need to live so far away from campus. When I imagine the situation from her point-of-view, it seems that all of us are intruding on her long-adored home. Once I saw the situation this way, their anger and frustration with the student population became far more justified and logical and I understand now why they are entitled to their parking.
I am almost always on the road riding one of my bikes, whether that’s my commuter or sport bike. As a result I’ve had a lot of experience seeing weird driving behavior. Among these include people who forget to use turn indicators or maybe those who turn without paying much attention altogether. Personally I both try to be considerate as best as possible to these drivers. I will often yield for cars whereas other road cyclists might not in the same circumstances. Still, considering myself as a cyclists from the perspective of other drivers I have to realize that my actions are weird and unpredictable. Sometimes I ride through a red light if there is no road on the right hand side. Sometimes I stop at stop signs to let a car pass, which by the way is a lot of effort and if a cyclists does this and it’s safe to pass as a driver then you should pass. What I’m trying to say is that I likely annoy drivers as much as they annoy me. So this weekend when the SLO streets were filled with parent driver unfamiliar with the roads and/or cyclists being on those roads, I had to stop an unusual amount of times and leave considerably more distance than usual. I didn’t let any of that bother me however as I know that even if it takes slightly more time to get where I’m going it will happen eventually and that it’s best to make others on the road both feel and be safe.
This Sunday I became very upset when thinking about how I treated my roommate last year (school year). We were best friends up until February of this year and spent most of our time together. In January, he told me he wanted to live with some different people next year and it made me very sad. He told me this news as soon as I woke up on my 21st birthday and it really put a damper on my whole day, to say the least. I became very insecure and instead of talking things out, I lashed out in a rather disconcerting and uncharacteristic way. He was so off put by my reaction, that he decided to move out a week after the angry outburst, after discussing the situation with his parents. For the rest of my winter quarter, I was alone with my thoughts in an empty apartment. In my heart of hearts, I knew I had messed up, but for a long time I refused to take my part of the blame in the disintegration of the friendship. It wasn’t until this past Sunday, when I was overcome with paralyzing feelings of remorse, that I began to confront some of the reasons why the relationship ended in such an abrupt and explosive way. I sat on a bench outside the UU and began to think deeply about why he had wanted to leave in the first place. Looking back on my fall quarter of last year, I realized that I hadn’t taken particularly good care of my mental health. This, in turn caused me treat people in ways that are unkind and unacceptable. I think I subtly began to treat my friend poorly on a daily basis and it led him to look for ways out of the toxic environment. I have some self-destructive tendencies and I wasn’t as good at managing them as I am now. I think my behavior made him feel uncomfortable and he wasn’t sure how to approach the subject with me. In an effort to spare my feelings, he looked for the most feasible options to get out of our living situation. Even though he didn’t choose the most tactful day to broach the subject, I understand why he needed to leave. He deserves people who can uplift him and make him feel happy on a day to day basis. Last year, I wasn’t the person who could do that. I haven’t spoken with him about any of this because every time I think of it I just become so painfully embarrassed. I know my actions warrant an apology but I am not really in a place to offer one. I guess my empathy only extends so far.. But letting go of the anger I felt for him has made me feel lighter. So perhaps an epilogue will follow if I ever work up the courage to tell him this in person. For now, I will just say: Greg, I understand I was wrong. And I’m sorry.
Saturday of this week, I returned home to find trash scattered across my kitchen floor. Among the litter was an empty pizza box, paper towels ripped to shreds, and a take-out box that had been licked clean. Although I had not been home to witness the incident, I pieced together the puzzle and I knew the culprit. He was standing there, looking at me, with those incredibly guilty eyes. Clearly, Leo (my girlfriend’s husky) had opened the trash while I was at the gym and had eaten the scraps of food my roommates and I had thrown away. I was disappointed in him, as he hadn’t done something along these lines in quite some time. And while he appeared to regret his actions, I had recently learned that dogs learn to make expressions such as “guilt” as they typically reduce the severity of the repercussion for their actions. At this point I realized I was being harsh. I took a breath… What motivated him to do what he did. He was hungry. His instincts tell him to eat when food is available. The food plain smelt good. While I would expect him to understand that he is not allowed to eat out of the trash, maybe he doesn’t. Perhaps, I am expecting for more of him than I should. And are his actions really that severe. They’re really not. I also know that dogs live in the moment, with poor ability to think to the past or to the future. What might he be thinking in the moment when I returned home and found the mess. He may not even understand why I am mad. I resolved at this point that there is surely no use in scolding. I gave him a quick embrace, cleaned up the trash and went on my way.
Living in a house with some of your best friends is a pretty cool experience, however certain complications do arise. It can be hard to be completely respectful of every ones’ schedules and personal belongings, and take care of your own responsibilities when it’s divided up by seven guys. We have all encountered dilemmas regarding all of these things at some point over the last couple months, but hopefully by learning to empathize with my roommates, we can reduce the frustration of these perceived problems. For example, a couple weeks ago, I had a big tournament that I had to wake up early for on a Saturday, so I decided to go to bed early the night before, Friday. I let my roommates know that I would be going to bed early, and implied that it would be nice if they kept it quiet and not have a lot of people over, but didn’t directly tell all of them, assuming they would know not too. Long story short, I ended up being kept up til 1 AM and finally texting them to turn the music off as I was very frustrated. Looking back on it I should’ve handled the situation differently and realized that if 6 of the 7 guys want to be loud and have fun, it’s not my place to control the house. I should’ve let them know directly earlier in the day, and if something was planned I could’ve slept at a friends house. Everyone has different schedules that they have to deal with, and I sometimes fail to recognize how loud I am in the morning, or on nights that others are trying to sleep. This last week I really tried to think about the little things that bug me, and then check myself to make sure that I’m not doing those things to my roommates. Things like letting dishes “soak” in the sink, or using others food etc. frustrate me, but I realized that I do some of those things on occasion and it’s probably just as frustrating to my roommates. Overall we have a great time living together, and I think if we can all empathize with each others’ schedules and personal belongings, we can eliminate some of the little dilemmas of all being in a house together.
In this past week during the empathy intervention, I found myself often wondering how I would go about doing this. At the same time I had found myself becoming sick and after a few days, I lost my voice completely. Even as I’m typing this up I have not fully regained the ability to talk and it has been frustrating, to say the least. Yet upon the realization that not having the ability to use my voice mirrors the struggle of what mute people go through every day, I found it a little bit relieving that I could use this time to empathize for multiple days without a choice. I really challenged myself when the weekend came, attending multiple social events without having the ability to talk, and my findings were actually very interesting. There is a spectrum of how people would treat me at the social events; there was one side that would see I couldn’t talk, found me boring because I couldn’t physically hold a conversation, and avoid me because they didn’t want this awkward silent guy ruining there time. On the other hand, I found a few people who were extremely kind and willing to help me try and breach this communication barrier that I hadn’t willingly installed. From notepads, to hand signals, the attempts were creative but mostly time consuming and ineffective, but they at least let me participate and have fun.
After these events, I took the time to ask myself why people act this way around those who legitimately have a communication handicap, vs a college student who temporarily unable to talk. I found that most of the people willing to assist me knew me better as a person, and knew how to assist in order to get me involved and have fun. While on the other side there were many people who don’t know how to react in a situation with someone that may not be fully capable of communicating, which in turn made them uncomfortable and want to leave the situation. I believe this opened my eyes to the sad realization that in the larger scheme of things, this is generally how we treat disabled people. We may want to help, but we may not understand them or feel fully capable to assist which wards a lot of good people away from those that need their help. As someone who doesn’t have a legit handicap, but was in a way being treated like I had one was fairly upsetting. I really wanted people to reach out of their comfort zone just so I could participate, and when I found most didn’t, I was fairly upset and felt outcasted. This expereince combined with reflection makes me want to leave my comfort zone around those I don’t feel as comfortable around, in order to make them feel a little more at home.
On Wednesday of last week, I found myself “othering” someone where I last expected it—my own house. To make a long story short, I live in a short of housing co-op that is connected to The Front Porch, a non-profit coffee house right off of Cal Poly’s campus. To me, I think my roommates and I get a pretty sweet deal here with discounted rent and free utilities in exchange for volunteering our time at Front Porch. However, one of my roommates —who I now realize I have “othered” as privileged and ungrateful— occasional vocalizes that Front Porch “asks too much of us.” Last Wednesday, he went so far to bring up in a meeting with the director of Front Porch that Front Porch should buy us another fridge, since there are six of us sharing one fridge. I was so frustrated!! My immediate response was anger that he could be so ungrateful to the amazing deal we were getting, and ask for even MORE. I thought of all the music equipment he has in his room and the fact that he is an only child, and I without question categorized him into the “other” group of “privileged and ungrateful.”
I think I “othered” him because I am someone who really wants to be aware of the privileges she has, and I want to be someone who is 1)grateful and then 2)does good with any advantages she has. I am very critical and easily frustrated by people who don’t seem to appreciate what they have —even though I know I often do not do a good job of practicing gratitude. All this to say, I was very ticked off at my roommate when I saw entitlement in him. But, then I remembered the empathy intervention. Honestly, it did not come easy to me, but I tried to understand his perspective and reasoning for having someone else (pretty much our property manager) buy us an extra appliance for the house. I thought about how he is a business major, and I realized that he might be comparing some business models he has studied to the business model of Front Porch. I thought about how for me, grocery shopping to buy a small amount of food weekly (rather than bi-weekly) is not a hassle, but for someone who buys in bulk from Costco in order to save time and decisions, smaller fridge space may be a bigger deal. Through small conversations and listing, I have been trying to understand his perspective before I argue my own opinion on the matter. And I have been trying to recognize tendencies of entitlement in myself.
After completing this week’s empathy experiment, I found that although “otherizing” may occur subconsciously, taking a week to recognize what it is and when we do it is a way to make great progress in breaking this habit that simply puts walls between those who have a different opinion or path in life than we do. The defining moment for me, although not necessarily world shattering by any means, came as I was working on homework at a coffee place in downtown SLO on Friday. All my life, I have been annoyed when a small child gets loud or interrupts a what I expected to be a moment quiet for me. However, as I was shifting toward feeling sorry for myself and asking why now and why me and “why can’t these parents and their child just leave!”, the thought of this empathy project kicked in. I realized that this wasn’t solely my moment, my coffee shop, or my right to be disappointed at this child whose situation I did not even know in the slightest bit. Instead of thinking of him as the “other, who is trying to make my day difficult, I wondered how his day had gone. It was 3:30 in the afternoon. He was probably hungry, he might of been tired, thirsty, or even had a headache, all of which sometimes happen to me at that time of day. This direction of thought injected almost sense of positivity and understanding into the situation. Understanding his perspective allowed me to realize that situations like that are something I cannot control, so there is no reason to otherize. The manner in which he was expressing himself was the only way he could at that age, and I should not go through life seeing the actions of others with which I do not agree as purposefully directed toward me.
I work at an on campus job, and although it can be rough at times to balance school and work, I am often able to do so by only working one or two shifts a week. This past week, however, I got a text from one of my co- workers asking if I could take one of her shifts for this week. At first my thought was, “heck no.” Why would I want to add an extra 4 hour shift to my already busy schedule when I could use that time studying or hanging out with friends. In her original message to me, however, she had stated that she had an internship interview that she could not make if she has to work. This is where my empathy intervention kicked in. I put myself in her shoes and imagined how stressed she probably is to get this shift covered. For me, it doesn’t make too big of a difference in my schedule if I work that time or not, but for her, it could be the difference between having an internship this upcoming year, or continuing working on campus.
A friend of mine lives at his grandma’s house and I visit their house often. The grandmother has lived in Los Osos for 35 plus years and has moved. She’s in complete love with the town and I don’t blame her but I’ve always questioned why she never left when there is a huge beautiful world out there. Being curious, I started a conversation with her about her past. She was raised smack in the middle of Los Angeles, surrounded by busy streets and bustling people. Loud cars and artificial material everywhere you look. I myself am from the Southern California area so I complete understood her reasoning and perspective now. To me the central coast is paradise. And that is exactly what she responded to me, Los Osos is paradise to her. The natural untouched wetlands, the variety of bird species, the peaceful sunsets and the calm serenity of the powerful Morro Rock. But of course, the wonderful people and close community that live in Los Osos. She has made many close friends in the town as well. In a way Los Osos is what Los Angeles would have looked like before destructive development, living wetlands with lust habitat. That is why she never left and never plans to. Understanding her perspective, set me back and allowed me to bond closer to her. We are all one, connections happen everyday about the most random topics. Thinking about others experiences is one of the most interesting things, one that is like an out of body experience.
Exploring the concept of empathy was very relevant this week. I attended the Bioneers conference in San Rafael this weekend, during which empathy and ‘othering’ was discussed frequently. For one example, Kandi Mosset, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations of North Dakota, was one of the keynote speakers. She spoke about the atrocious environment in which her community has been living in ever since their land has been used for coal mines, oil extraction, and fracking sites. She talked about the consequences of these operations, ranging from environmental destruction to social destruction. For a few environmentally destructive examples: how a site is used once and never cleaned up, how fracking water is discarded on the roads and seeps into their drink water supply and contains more than 600 carcinogenic chemicals, and how the poor air quality has caused respiratory problems in the majority of the people who live there. For the more heinous examples: her close friend was killed by a large semi-truck used to transport coal that was not following the rules of the road, her cousin was mysteriously killed and discarded in a small lake nearby, and many of the women and young girls (the youngest being only 3 months old) have disappeared or have been killed after being taken to the ‘man camps’, the place where the industry workers live while on site, and haven’t been named in main stream media. While listening to this, it was difficult to contain the emotions and anger that these stories provoked. I tried to imagine what it would feel like living in a place like that, and found this very difficult because I have never experienced such oppression or danger. On the other hand, I was overwhelmed with a sense of fear, anger and felt physically tense. I found myself trying to ‘other’ Kandi and the people she was talking about, trying to rationalize a situation where what she was saying wasn’t the most horrible thing I was hearing. But then I couldn’t understand why the people working on the sites could treat Kandi’s people that way but then came to the conclusion that they were projecting the strongest sense of ‘otherness’ upon them, so strong that they likely didn’t see them as humans but as something less valuable, something disposable, in order to rationalize that kind of behavior towards someone of your own species. John Powell, the head of the UC Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society spoke, and he further explored the concept of ‘otherness’ and what the alternative would be. He claimed that ‘othering’ is an expression of the belief that the differences between people, cultures, etc. are negative and induce crises. He claimed that some people, in an attempt to not ‘other’ people that are different, conclude in ‘saming’ them, which is not any more productive because it is an expression of the belief that differences do not exist. The ideal alternative, which was a recurrent theme of these talks and of Kandi’s, is ‘belonging’. An expression of ‘we’ where no one culture, person, or idea is on the outside. I only see this ideal occurring when a strong sense of empathy is at the center of people’s worldview.
Judy Kong: I think all siblings have their fights ever so often, more or less. Whenever I hear other people say that they’re incredibly close with their siblings, I can’t help but question why my relationship with my brother is so sour. We’re close, don’t get me wrong, but every time we interact is an opportunity for us to argue about something as arbitrary about whose car to take to the grocery store. On July 31st this past summer was my mother’s birthday, and I wanted to ask my brother to take some nice photos of her and myself. Of course he said yes (professional photography was his passion), and agreed at a certain time to go take shoot some pics at a vineyard not too far from our house. Within that hour of agreement, we began to fight about the time we should go and the pointlessness of this occasion. I had a bad temper at the time and denounced him right in front of our mom for being immature and he threw an angry fit back at me, causing a ruckus that was both kind of scary and irritating. However, I realized after that it wasn’t his fault for being angry…he didn’t have to do this. I personally asked him for a favor and didn’t respect him enough for him to willingly do this for us. He was already stressed out and busy with his own thing, and I forced the task onto him without asking if he was available to. From that point forward, I learned to ask if someone was available and not assume that someone would spontaneously say yes to something, even if it’s something they enjoy or are passionate about. I also realized that I was too mean to my brother; my mom had a talk with me about the importance of keeping family close. Eventually, he is all I will have left as we age and the building of a strong relationship takes time and effort. Since then, I haven’t fought with my brother (although I will always have the urge to), and if I do, we discuss it rather than bicker.
Gabriel Seelig: I am currently working on the final stage of my senior project sponsored by company X. Earlier in the project I discovered a bug in the equipment provided to me by company X that made it impossible to use this vital equipment for my project. I documented the bug, showed my project mentor at the company how to reproduce it, and was assured that the problem would be fixed quickly. However, delay after delay prevented the bug from being fixed and this past week my mentor told me that yet again the fix was delayed because he accidentally broke the fixed equipment in testing before he could send it on to me. Each delay made me more and more frustrated and anxious, but his past week I have tried to look at the situation from his perspective. He seems to be getting increasingly anxious as well, and embarrassed that he cannot solve this problem. Seeing things from his perspective has allowed me to communicate more effectively with him and others at company X about the project, but unfortunately it hasn’t fixed the bug.
Megan Wenzel: Since I have been at Cal Poly I have had various living situations. This year I am living with a larger group of girls than I have in the past and we all get along pretty well. Midterm season has just come around and while I know it’s not as stressful for some, it is very stressful for others. Last week I came downstairs in the morning and there were pans on the stove that had been there for multiple days and plates and silverware stacked up in the sink when there is a nearly empty dishwasher just to the right of it. I was super frustrated and confused because it does not take that long and now our kitchen looks messy. I started to “otherize” these roommates that I knew left all the dish ware around as lazy and a little sloppy. Then after going over some of my class notes I remembered our emphasizing intervention that we were supposed to be doing this week. I was quickly reminded that a few of my roommates had big midterms this week and have almost been living at the library. I took a step back from the situation and realized that it is hard to have all your tests in one week and they wanted all the time they could get studying. For me, they are not my dishes left because I prefer to clean up right after if I make a mess, I just did not want to look at them. I don’t want to be angry with them because I’m sure they will do it when they have the time and they don’t need another stress on top of what they already have.
Pete Schwartz: For the past year, I have angered a student that I collaborate with professionally. This week, they terminated our professional interactions and sent me what is likely the last Email communication vilifying me. While I’m relieved that we don’t work together any more, there is a strong air of failure, as we ostensibly share social values and work toward the same societal goals. As in past communications, I’m tempted to laugh off and dismiss this student’s protestations and accusations as disconnected from reality. Instead, I consider what it feels like to be therm. As faculty, I have agency in interactions with students that put me in a position of power. A student in conflict with me could feel helpless and voiceless. How does it feel to be voiceless and helpless? I know it well. The sense of injustice is infuriating, debilitating, and despairing. I have this feeling sometimes in dealing with certain faceless offices of the university’s administration. I recognize that this situation is awful for the student. I wish I could say that the realization helped me work things out with the student. However, I see no productive way forward and will instead not provide a counterpoint to their insults as it would likely only enflame the situation.
Pete Schwartz (epilogue): Ironically, the strongest empathy to helplessness I can find is when I’m dealing with my son, age 9, when he obstructs my day in a way I find tyrannical as he definitely recognizes his position of power in the matter: such as refusing to brush his teeth and go to swim practice. You know, you really can’t make a kid brush their teeth (or anything else) without being horribly abusive. And to be empathetic with him, I think he must have a near identical take on the situation with me requiring him to brush his teeth. sigh
Below this line is for Winter 2017, PSC320: Energy, Society, and the Environment
I’m concerned about our national situation, which is not just that Trump is doing things I don’t like. There is a national division, which was potentially always there, but seems to be getting worse. I began inquiring on My FaceBook Page about how Trump supporters felt about efforts to silence climate change scientists, and the travel restrictions. I received responses from only two people. I think that most people don’t like confrontation, even when they are being confrontative and divisive. More recently, I’ve inquired why people are attacking Trump and asking if these sometime humorous attacks are helping the situation. The response so far has been that I’m criticized as being a Trump supporter that doesn’t like seeing things critical of Trump – In my request to treat the other side with respect I am being dismissed as someone who can’t take criticism (…against Trump!). So, I respond with an extra effort to understand. Ironically (???) I think I’ve come full circle, and I’m trying to empathetically understand how people opposed to Trump feel and are responding as they do.
After several weeks of doing this, I find the name calling from the left indistinguishable from the name calling from the right. I also ventured to the website of a friend I met freshman year of HS, 1978. He proved to be an amazing swimmer finishing second in NY state. He’s running for congress in Georgia and I’m having
a hard time with his stance. I don’t feel any closer to having a solution to the difficulty, but I do feel more unsure of my own position,… and think that this may be progress. Please see my final post this morning, Monday Feb. 27 on Bob’s FB page. I recommend a study that Sam Altman published. I put it here to the right. The last thing that happened, was that Chris Lee Raley, who’d communicated a number of hostile things to me, liked the post.
I have a neighbor who when you initially meet him comes across as very mean. He has been ‘tormenting’ my roommates and I this entire year with snarky comments about our appearance, majors, and hobbies. I realized he doesn’t have a lot of friends but he recently communicated to me that he often waits for someone in my apartment to come home so he can update us on his day. Earlier in the year I was so frustrated with him that I filed a complaint after he made a mean remark to my roommate about her weight. For this self-intervention I have taken it among myself to see from his point of view, why he behaves the way he does. I ended up asking him, why he waits for us to come home when he has expressed distaste in my roommates and I. His response shocked me. He said that he was a recent immigrant (2 years ago), and that in his country the humor is a lot more dry and blunt. This made me realize that I was looking at the situation black and white. I didn’t think to account for his cultural difference, but rather acted solely on my feelings. As a result of this self-intervention I am taking upon myself to take into account people’s backgrounds before I make a conclusion about their expressed behavior.
Ever since I began my involvement with philanthropy within Greek Life at Cal Poly I have noticed inspired people who raise great awareness and money for different charities and non-profit organizations. I myself have helped fundraise thousands of dollars for different non-profits such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Feeding America, but am I really raising the best awareness that I can? Are any of us at Cal Poly (whether you are in a Greek organization or not) working together to raise money and awareness for our non-profits? There has yet to be a Greek wide, better yet, Cal Poly wide effort to host a philanthropy event that can bring together the San Luis Obispo community and show people that we do great things not just for our self benefit. I am organizing the Feeding America FOOD Festival, benefitting the SLO Food Bank, on Saturday, March 11 at 1pm, at the Avila Beach Golf Resort to help create this togetherness mentality. It will be an event to bring everyone together, showing off some of the great contributions different Greek organizations and the SLO Food Bank make to the community.
I have moved into my current house this past fall quarter and I’ve been very grateful for my roommates. Before moving into this house all together, I had concerns that our friendship may be disturbed by struggles and disagreements we may come across while living together. But despite such worry, we have not had any major disagreements and in fact my roommates were very respectful and open to my culture (mainly food) which may be considered too authentic for individuals from a different cultural background. At least I thought there weren’t any issues until I heard something new from a third party person. I discovered that one of my two roommates was actually not happy with the way I use the kitchen. She had thought my dishwashing habits were poor and that I did not clean the kitchen very well. At first I was quite upset that she had never told me about such issue herself. But soon after I realized, it’s quite unfair to be upset at my roommate when I was the ’cause’ of the problem. Plus I had not realized that particular roommate actually does not cook as much as I do, which also means she doesn’t have a ‘reason’ to make a mess in the kitchen. Another difference between our kitchen usage was the washing machine. I was raised in a family where the dish washer was never in use, but she wasn’t. She was raised in a family where she was consistently exposed to her mother utilizing the machine. Noticing these differences really helped me understand where the problem could have arise. But I wasn’t sure how I need to approach this and communicate with my roommate so that we’re all happier. But I figured she didn’t really want to confront such issue since she has never mentioned it to me. So in order to understand this kitchen situation from her perspective, I started doing my dishes immediately after use, in addition to immediately cleaning the cooking area. And now, it’s been lover 3 weeks since I discovered the problem and carried out the new habit. Result being, clean kitchen is so much nicer. Kitchen feels lot more sanitary, spacious, and ready-to-go when the sink is empty. I also started noticing the third roommate’s dishes in the sink. I wasn’t necessarily annoyed or relieved(?) by the existence of someone else’s unwashed dishes in the sink. Yet I’m now able to feel what it feels like to see unwashed dishes sitting when I need to use the sink or kitchen mess when I haven’t contributed to such scene. This experience helped me fix my bad habits and we, including myself, seem to be much happier with this change.
Camille La Cour
I have in the last few weeks struggled with the daily news reporting on the strange state of our world, especially when it’s according to the perspective of our president. The idea of “fake news” and “alternative facts” sweeping the nation was a troubling one. So when trump2016.com issued out a public survey titled “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey,” I decided to take it to get a glimpse into the concerns of the other side and address them accordingly from my perspective by filling out the survey and using the “other” box to go more in depth into my response. Though for the most part, my answers still supported the liberal/non-far right (because I have learned to acknowledge not all conservatives are in agreement over this current administration) platform, by checking the other box and directing my answer to the specific question’s concern I was able to gain a better understanding of what and how communities were feeling underrepresented or misjudged by the popular media. In a world of ratings and constant updates, many things that are big news to individual communities are not brought up for the rest of the world to recognize. Do I think the best way to deal with this is by shutting out and falsely accusing current news outlets for their coverage is the best way to deal with this? Absolutely not. However, do I feel there are people’s and community’s stories not being appropriately told and valued? Absolutely, and there should be room and an interest for them. No matter where on the political spectrum, there will always be news stories that need to be told unbiasedly.
I live in a house with 3 other people, and, while it is to be expected that we all have different schedules, mine is very different. Partially due to my family upbringing and partially due to my class schedule, I get up a lot earlier than the rest of the household. Now, I always do try to do what I can to be quite in the morning, I can do better. I know that a couple of them sleep in for 3 hours after I am up and I would like to try to make this easier on all of us. By getting more of my morning prep’d the night before, I can make it so that I am less disruptive in my morning routine. For the last coup
le weeks now I have been getting as much ready as I can the night before and lowering the volume of my alarm (which I don’t even need to be too loud as I am easily roused by it). I have everything ready to go so that in the morning I can open as few drawers and doors and turn on as few lights as possible. And, on the days when I don’t have to go to class early and instead may watch TV or play videogames, I make sure to use headphones (which makes the sound for anything so much better anyway). All of this together makes my mornings easier and reduces the impact my mornings may have on those living with me (as my curse of early-rising doesn’t need to affect them, too).
The importance of putting myself in other peoples shoes has been relevant recently. In my empathy intervention I would rather discuss the importance of having empathy for others and why it is important. I am in a negotiation class where we recently had a project to get 10 NO’s when asking for what you want. The idea was to push to get what you want and understand when you can ask for more. It relied a lot on understanding each others position to know when to ask, and to have a successful deal where the time spent negotiating is minimal because both side take the time to listen and understand where the other side is coming from rather. In the negotiations I was unsuccessful, neither party stopped to put themselves in the other persons role. This led to the lack of collaboration. Going forward in negotiations, I believe it is important to act as a mediator and define the interests of both sides so listening is ensured. In this manner both sides can have the opportunity to put themselves in the others shoes, and give a little while negotiating. This way both parties end up happy and satisfied.
Since I have been at Cal Poly I have met a lot of people with different backgrounds and different views on life. One student in particular brought up in Nipomo has a unique background compared to mine. We were brought up in different areas I was raised in the the city of San Diego while my friend was raised on a property in the forest of Nipomo. Growing up he was used to doing outdoors activities such as fishing, hunting, and shooting. Me on the other hand only played tennis, basketball, and piano. I recognized that he has more experience in hunting for his own food so I decided to go fishing with him. I have never caught a fish before so I relied heavily in his knowledge. With his experience helping me I was able hook and catch a 3 ft green rock fish by my 2nd cast. Now faced with the decision to either release the fish back to the ocean or bringing it back home to eat I did what my friend would do and kept it to eat for later. Feeling bad at the time that I killed another living organism, my friend tried to cheer me up by showing me a cute sea otter smashing a fish against a rock to get his food. I justified my action by telling myself this happens all the time in nature and in life through prey and predator relationships. From this experience I was able to understand a little more on why my friend goes out hunting.
Growing up in Los Angeles I have acquired many bad driving habits, like not allowing people to get in front of me. I also notice I get unreasonably annoyed when I am cut off or I when I find other people’s driving sub-par. It’s not like I am the best driver in the world and I find myself holding other drivers to a much higher standard than I hold myself to. Recently, I have been trying to break my “unempathetic” habits and allow other people to cut in front of me. When I get cut off I try to see the driver’s viewpoint and not get annoyed. I will make up excuses for them in my head, like maybe they are in a rush because they are late to work. We have all been in that position before and I would hope that someone would let me in or not get annoyed that I was cutting them off. At first these changes were difficult. However, after a week of practicing, what I like to call, “empathetic driving” it has become much easier. Not only has it become easier, I have noticed myself enjoying the act of driving much more.
My Dad is a Dr. of Psychology so pretty young I began to see the importance of empathy highlighted in my mind. I feel very fortunate to be able to live a full and lovely adventurous life. I also am increasingly aware that my reality is very different from that of the majority of this world, so I have been trying to make changes that both boost my empathy and keep me grounded in the beauty of each present moment. This has led me to do 5 short meditations a day that has been changing the way I see day to day simple activities like eating, walking, or sitting outside. These meditations have started to heighten my awareness of my privilege and immense the beauty present in my life. This has led me to think more globally and empathaize with those whose everyday is filled with turmoil,greif, or discrimination. I have been working to replace the label ” weird” in my mind with “curious”. I most definitely still “otherize” people. Often because they don’t share the same values. I specifically struggle with otherize I find to be superficial or image based, individuals who spend too much time on their phones ( wishing and not doing) and individuals who trash the planet with a unfulfilling and unsustainable lifestyle.This week I am working to take the time to rethink my notions on these ideas and the people who seem to represent them. I recognize my beliefs are greatly a result of my childhood, hometown, and upbringing and others are the same, which doesn’t make their ideas/world hold any less validity. This week, I work to put myself in these peoples’ shoes. Wonder why and how they think this way, work to understand and listen to these beliefs that are not similar to mine. We are all ever-changing results of the experiences we have been through, the people. places, and things that make us individuals. I plan to continue to work and monitor my mind in this way and look at the “other” with an appreciation of diversity and curiosity rather than a space judgment. I plan to keep exploring this process and am grateful to have been able to include it in this academic setting.
I currently live in an apartment with my best friend since sixth grade, Adam. We went to the same elementary school, middle school, and high school, and now college. Understandably, I have spent a lot of time with Adam and although I love the guy, we argue and bicker about silly things all the time. Often I “individuals” him when we argue and dismiss his opinions simply because I’m mad at him or I just think he’s plain wrong. Throughout this week I have tried to see our little arguments from his point of view. Often Adam gets slightly angry with me when I leave some dishes out or clothes lying around. I dont seem to think that its a very big deal, as the mess is never that bad and Adam isn’t really the cleanest guy himself, but recently I have tried to see things from his perspective. I come back to the apartment from my classes a couple hours earlier than him everyday so I understand a little anger when I have had all this time to tidy up and the kitchen is dirtier than he left. Although he sometimes says it in a harsh way, I understand that all he’s really saying is “This shit is dirty”, which is an understandable sentiment, since no one likes a messy apartment. I’ve recently tried to start cleaning dishes right after I use them and stop leaving random shirts all over the couches. I’ve found that me being cleaner has made Adam cleaner, since his messes are easier to see and were clearly made by him since we are the only two people that live here. Overall, we have bickered less recently and our apartment is a little cleaner than usual, so win, win!
I was a little surprised when I saw this self intervention topic. I generally consider myself to be a fairly empathetic person and I thought this would be simple enough. I realized thought, and this is only from a few minutes of deep thought, that there are many places in my life where I could stand to be more empathetic. The first thing that comes to mind (and this may be because it happened most recently), was an interaction that took place with a friend. Truthfully, I still haven’t quite reached a feeling of empathy yet, but I AM trying, and hopefully that counts for something. This story needs a bit of a background to make sense so here goes: I come from a slightly-below-middle-class family. My parents divorced when I was young, and there was never really a moment in our childhood where money wasn’t tight in both households. That being said though, we still had wonderful childhoods. My aunt is far from middle class- can even be considered in the top 1%, really. She has been a big part of our lives since I can remember. My brother, sister and I are all very fortunate to have been able to attend school together at Cal Poly. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of my aunt. We’re all “on scholarship” through my aunt – we’ve signed contracts, submit to quarterly grade checks, etc. I feel I owe a large part of whatever success I may find in my future to my aunt and the opportunity she has given me. It’s hard to express the gratitude I feel towards her, and I fear trying to here won’t begin to do it justice. Whenever this topic comes up with friends, fellow students, etc, I try, and sometimes I think succeed – in expressing my feelings about it, but who knows what they see. Anyway, I had a conversation about me studying abroad soon with someone who is actually quite close to me (which I think is part of the reason I was so frustrated originally that she couldn’t understand how grateful I am to my aunt) and was met with a rather nasty response. It was like she was genuinely mad at me for the life I was able to lead, and was trying to make me feel ashamed of my privileges. This came from someone who has quite similar privileges to me, too. In the moment, I was infuriated. I don’t know if it was how I was raised or what, but I was always taught to not condone those for the good things that come to people in their lives. Whether they won the lottery or worked hard their whole lives and achieved their dream jobs – good is good right? And good should be celebrated (I don’t share theses sentiments if it’s at the expense of those less fortunate). My friend, apparently didn’t share those same sentiments. I tried to express that I was upset that she didn’t understand (maybe her professor should assign an empathy self-intervention), and we ended up getting in a big fight about it. I’ve had some time to cool off, and I’m trying to see things from her point of view. As I said before, I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I can understand that she may have been having personal frustrations about her own life, maybe she’d had bad day and was taking her frustrations out on me, or maybe the way I presented my excitement came off in an unfavorable way. Either way, it is something I am sure to be more aware of the next time I’m confronted with a similar situation. I want to say thank you to Pete for helping me take a moment and think. I think searching for reasons to be empathetic in all aspects of life will help shape me into the person I’d like to become.
Similar to Pete, I have “otherized” Trump supporters. I do not consider myself Liberal or Republican, but rather a Humanist. I believe in democracy, but do not believe that the current administration has the whole “for the people” portion of our system figured out. My peers and I have had lots of talks about the future under Trump’s hateful rule. I have demonized Trump supporters and associated them with all of the misogynistic, xenophobic, and hateful things that Trump has said, but I have since realized that it is unfair of me to do so. I have spoken to a dear friend of mine who believes that Trump has definite behavior issues, but has some ideas that could benefit the business side of America. Though I still do not support Trump in any way, I have realized that it is unfair of me to group everyone who voted for him into one pack. In attempts to understand Trump supporters and their reasoning for voting for him, I will continue to ask questions and debate causes I believe in, while trying to understand the other stance as well. Like any situation in life, the best way to understand something is to ask questions.
This Quarter, I am in a religion class. I was baptized Catholic and attended Catholic school until 12th grade. Today, I do not practice any religion because I felt as though it was forced upon me as a child. I have also encountered many misinformed and jaded (in my opinion) views on what Catholicism is to many people in my own community which pushed me away even further. Since taking this class, I have realized that I am a common offender of “otherized” Catholics solely because my own experience was unfavorable. Through this class, I have understood the true dedication that people feel to religion. It is wrong of me to denounce Catholicism as a whole because to many people it is the central teaching of their life. I have decided to continue to follow my own personal mantra of loving everyone equally despite creed, color, or gender and to forget about my own personal stigmas against religion.
After listening to Pete in class on how he does not remove any friends on facebook (even if they post any extreme conservative comments), rather he tries to understand their opposing views, I decided that I’d take an initiative in practicing similar empathy. However, my scope is not just limited to facebook, I also read through conservative comments on youtube videos that incite political conversation or even comments that are posted on NPR articles. My goal is is to just get some answers behind the reasoning of conservative ideals. I mainly want to understand why people are so incredibly hostile in political conversations these days (at least based on the interactions I’ve seen at Cal Poly). From what I can surmise so far, I’ve learned that people are incredibly frustrated because they personally feel attacked whenever a political action occurs that is against their normal way of life. They do not question the merit or logic behind actions, they simply decide right away to put up a front and refuse to accept anything new. It’s troubling because the more political ideals become polarized, the less likely that rational well ever be enough to get both sides to agree on something. What happens when internally, the United States becomes two separate countries?
I was generally raised to put myself in another person’s shoes before I make a snap judgment. With that said, sometimes it isn’t easy to stop yourself from coming to conclusions about another person before you’ve had the chance to really think about their situation. For me personally, I would like to practice being more empathetic to the world around me. This includes the people, the earth, the sky and everything in between. I want to be able to make choices with them in mind, and remember that even though a decision may be the most convenient for me, it may be really inconveniencing something else. I would like to remember to check my privilege when applicable and attempt to live a simpler life, letting less and less things bother me. When I find myself annoyed by small comments or drowning in a constant social media battle between who has the best fun photo from their vacation and who’s left and who’s right, I want to be able to just remember the love for my fellow humans and kindly log off. This has been a lifestyle I’ve been working towards, but like I said in the beginning it’s easy to sometimes let your mind get carried away.
I’ve lived with one of my roommates for a little over 2 years now, and we haven’t gotten along as well as we did in our first and second year. She was a very close friend of mine but suddenly we didn’t have much contact at all over last summer. When school year started, I found out she got a new boyfriend which affected our whole friendship. In the last few months, I’ve built up frustration and resentment toward the clutter and disorganization around the house because her boyfriend was either here or she would be gone. Cleaning has always been a way for me to de-stress and relax but it hasn’t felt like that lately because I was cleaning more than the mess I make. When I tried to make it clear to her about the situation and that they should clean up after themselves, my roommate distanced herself from me and pretended like I wasn’t living there. I don’t mind her boyfriend being over all the time; I just want to be able to feel comfortable in my own living space that I paid for. Eventually, she and I do not hangout as much as we used to because she want to deal with this new relationship (which I totally understand). I tried to be friends and get her to go out but she is always with him. Now, we go on with our days like we are merely people who are living under the same roof but want nothing to do with each other. I try my best to feel empathy over her break up with her ex boyfriend but she found herself a new one and I don’t want to force my friendship upon her if she doesn’t want it. I learn to just be myself and be more carefree in those matters.
One of my roommates and I have a hard time getting along. I live with 5 other girls, so to only have a slight issue with one of them is a huge blessing! She is very introverted and sometimes it comes across as standoffish. Last year I lived with 4 of my 5 current roommates and the other was my roommate from freshman year. She was also an extreme introvert and and spent most of her time with her boyfriend, they had been together for a long time so it was understandable. All of us other roommates had a hard time getting along with her because we all got along and were extroverted. That roommate ended up moving out when we moved houses at the end of last year. I was fearful as the year went on that the same situation was going to replicate itself and that she would want to move out. I have been working on trying to give her space when she needs it but not getting bitter about her needing space. I often find myself taking her need for personal space, personally and then it affects my attitude towards her and makes me think she hates me. I strongly dislike when I think someone is mad at me so that was a hard reality to face. Thankfully I have amazing roommates who all love and care about each other so we were able to sit down and talk about the situation because we all felt the same way. Since then I have been working on not taking her introvertedness as a dig towards me, but something she needs for herself. It is often hard to see someone else’s view because we are so stuck in our own ways but I have been doing my best!
I am currently sharing a room with someone who has been my close friend since we were 3 years old. I would even call him my brother because he grew up in my family’s home from the ages of 3 to 14 or so, and he is really a part of my family. I’m a transfer student and he already attended Cal Poly when I started this year, so it seemed natural that we would try to room together. However, once the year started I realized that he is incredibly inconsiderate and I started to resent him. As the months went by, every little thing he did that annoyed me would become a bigger issue to me but I would always stay quiet about it and never bring it to his attention. Instead, I would let it build in my head and complain about him to our friends. In the last few weeks I’ve realized what a bad friend I’ve been to him by talking badly about him behind his back and I’ve resolved to stop it completely. So far, the results have been great even though it’s only been about two weeks. He no longer annoys me to the degree that he did and we have been getting along much better. It shows that my own mindset was probably the majority of the problem.
Another upcoming situation where I can (and should) practice empathy is coming up next weekend (March 4th). My family is extremely conservative and yes, they are Trump supporters and climate change deniers. For years now, this has greatly distressed me and I’ve gotten into many heated arguments with my mom, grandfather, and cousin over it. This next weekend this same cousin is getting married to a guy that nobody in our family has really met. They’ve only known each other for 4 months and it seems way too early for her to commit her life to this man. When I go back home next weekend, I’m going to do my best to listen to other people’s politicalenvironmentalreligious/life beliefs and try to see where they’re coming from. I’m not going to argue back to make sure that they hear why I think they are wrong. Instead, I am going to try to understand their point of view and show them that I care about them because they are my family and no matter what our differences are, I still care about them.
With each quarter getting busier and busier, I’ve noticed that I have acquired a bit of a bad habit: clock watching. When classes get slow and I have a lot of work to do throughout the day, I can’t help getting antsy and glancing at the clock during some of my lectures. I know this can be rude, and I want to remind myself that teachers are trying to create a lecture that meets the needs of all students, which is hard enough. So for the next day or so, I want to challenge myself to not look at the clock during my classes.
UPDATE: So I forgot that instead of attending class on Friday, I would be touring a print facility with a few Graphic Communication students. I decided to revise my intervention by not looking at my phone (specifically the clock on my phone) during the entire tour, which was roughly two hours long. I tried to take into consideration that the woman giving us the tour was not obligated to do so, and for her to take time out of her day was a very nice gesture. Although it was difficult to focus at times, I soon realized that by not looking at my phone I became more engaged in the tour. I even had a talk with the tour guide and asked questions, and overall the experience became much more meaningful.
I really dislike the fast fashion trend where people buy cheap clothes that don’t last and don’t really care about. So when I see people do this I’m sort of disgusted by their lifestyle choices and what appears to me as a general disregard for the world around them. I have a few friends like this and it bothers me. That is my initial judgement, but I took the time to really look at how they feel about these things, and even though they don’t deeply care about them, it makes them happy at least for a little while. Before, I just saw how wasteful they were being, but now I see that going shopping and buying something cute brings them at least a little bit of joy, it’s hard to judge them for that. Everyone is just trying to be happy and this sort of consumerism contributes to their happiness. So although I don’t quite agree and I don’t want to live like that I no longer resent them for it. I still wish that they could do something else less harmful for the planet to increase their happiness, but I’m happy that they’re happy.
Warning: A bit personal
I find it quite hard to think of someone to empathize with at the moment — my living conditions has significantly improved versus the previous years and I haven’t had much problem with any roommates. My relationships has been relatively stable. Recently, I’ve found a wonderful video on empathy and I thought it was super appropriate for this self intervention. Empathy has always been a really important thing to me because I was really angry most of my teenage years, about the life I was given and my situation. With empathy and a new mindset, my view of the world became drastically different once I became more emotionally mature. I believe empathy can’t be done in just one week — it requires a long time for us to think about the issue, the other person, and then learn to forgive and be in the other person’s shoes. So I didn’t want to write something generic to get this exercise over with, because it’s an issue I feel strongly about. I once listened to a podcast about this, and it was about how the first reaction we have about something isn’t something we can control, but what we make of it later, and the direction we take our thoughts are the most important and indicative of who we are.
Recently, I’ve had my entire housemates take an empathy test that I took in high school…out of all my friends, I got the lowest empathy score, with scores that are supposedly indicative of autism. I think I was born naturally less empathetic than most people, but that didn’t mean, to me, that I was somehow flawed…because what I found really important was a willingness to understand and be open with new kinds of ideas and different kinds of people. Over the years, I had grown as a person, trying to “understand” things…here are some in the past, and most of them are still an ongoing process for me:
1.) Traffic — I try to believe that people who cut you off during traffic must be having a bad day…and if we just let it go, the angry us won’t control us and make our day bad I try to take things too personally when people are bad drivers, and just go on with my day and not let it affect me.
2.) Parents — I struggled a lot with my parents being too controlling over the teenage years, especially being an only child. I often compared myself with my friends and felt really bitter of the lack of independence I had. I used to be so angry at my situation and that anger channeled into emotional break downs and other forms of self hatred, teenage angst, the usual. As I grew older, I began empathizing with how they grew up, in a different setting from me, and how differently they view the world. I tried to understand why they said the things they did, even if what they said hurt me in some way. Basically, it was a freeing way to learn to forgive the things they did, and learn to love them because in the wider scope, they did love me in their own way. This was a long process and it only started happened around senior year of high school. When I moved away for college, that process really accelerated, and I still find it hard sometimes…when I go back home because empathy is something you just have to keep DOING and you can’t really just do it once and call it done. A continual process.
3.) The Poor — growing up, I was really really bitter at “lazy poor people who don’t work and leech on governmental money”. I was NOT wealthy growing up, and I was angry because I knew there were people who cheated the system in order to get free money for education, etc. I was really bitter because I knew my parents worked hard, 6 days a weak, lots of overtime, even if they didn’t go to college in the united stated, to contribute to society and not rely on social security. I was always taught to take pride in my own perseverance…but in the recent years, I have learned to be more empathetic of the people at the absolute bottom rung of the ladder…they may be plagued with emotional trauma, or some kind of mental/abuse/addiction to deal with. I stopped seeing the world in black and white, and SURE, there are people who cheat the system, but there’s also A LOT of people who need help and can’t help themselves, even if they wanted to. I guess, an ability to support yourself IS a form of privilege, and I stopped being so bitter about poor people not helping themselves…but maybe on the top 1%. Maybe I can find a way to empathize with those people, but at the moment, I’m having some trouble.
There is a lot more things I tried to empathize with, but those are a few of the ones that has been on my mind lately. There has certainly been conflicts with roommates and people I knew in the past, but those were minor in the larger landscape, because it was more one-on-one, than a shift in mindset in the end.
Growing up, I had been raised to believe that homeless people were lazy, unmotivated, and leeched off of taxpayers’ money. Every time we’d drive a homeless encampment of tents along the side of the freeway my parents wouldn’t hesitate to say snarky comments such as “how hard is it to get a job at McDonalds” or “that is so disgusting, don’t they have any self respect?” I’d never seen them give any change to homeless on the sidewalk. My father even used to lecture me on how drug usage and alcoholism could lead to homelessness and that they must have done something to deserve it. I guess growing up in that kind of environment I never really questioned my parents’ views on homelessness and thought that was the norm. However, I remember one day distinctly during my junior year of high school, after going out to dinner with one of my friends (who’s one of the biggest sweethearts I know), we were walking back to the car and we passed a homeless man on the sidewalk. I avoided eye contact and continued walking just as I’d been taught to do. After a few steps my friend paused, searched through her purse, and ran back to hand him a ten dollar bill. I was astonished. Do people really just give to the homeless like that? I remember feeling guilty that I had done nothing and perplexed by her generosity. Throughout the years following that I really began to grow more and more empathetic towards the homeless community. In my senior year of high school some of my other friends started a community service club centered around the homeless and low income community. At first I joined in support for my friends. Every couple weekends we’d visit a supportive housing facility for homeless and low income families. We’d bake cookies, bring gifts, make crafts, and read stories to the children at the facility. They would always look forward to our visits and the parents would always express their gratitude towards us. This was such a great experience for me because I was able to connect with them on such a personal level, as equals. I was able to see them for the people they were, instead of judging from a distance. I learned that there are so many different factors that could lead to homelessness besides substance abuse, such as job loss, mental disabilities, loss of family, abuse, being a veteran, and so on. There’s so many different factors that could put someone into that sort of situation that I learned they can not be blamed for it. Certainly there are still people who take advantage of the system, however there are way more people who would do anything to improve their living situation. And once they are put into that situation it is so hard to escape it. Without stable housing or an address it can be so difficult to find a job. I now know that they are not all to blame and hope to one day be able to give back to the homeless community, maybe through designing affordable permanent housing for the homeless. I learned that even though I may have been brought up a certain way, it’s never too late to go back and question those beliefs and try and see things from other perspectives; I’m also so grateful to have such kind friends who taught me empathy. I always try to remember to implement this beyond just the homeless community and into other aspects of my life as well.
This week, I did an economic experiment where I was randomly and anonymously grouped with 3 other people. Everyone would choose some amount to invest in risk reduction. If we all contributed a decent amount, our chance for risk would be very low, otherwise we’d lose some amount and we’d repeat this 10 times. At the end, one of the 10 times would be chosen, and we’d get money equal to the money we didn’t lose or contribute. During all of the times, one group member would contribute very little, while me and another group member contributed a lot. So when we avoided risk, the one group member won a lot, and when we lost, he/she’d lose the least. During part of the experiment I got really annoyed and lowered my contributions, since I thought that that would force the one group member to raise their contribution to make up for it. But they didn’t and we lost a couple rounds because of me. While I did that, the other group member who contributed a lot, continued to do so. By the end, I realized that this didn’t matter too much and the one group member was probably just having fun with it, like I should have been. So when I signed up for another economic experiment and we were grouped in a different situation, I tried to let other people do what they wanted without getting annoyed and did what I thought was best and had fun with it.
I’m the Vice President of my club tennis team, and I often find myself getting irritated with the other leadership on the team. Sometimes I feel as if I’m the only one who cares about our team and I often get frustrated that I put in a significant amount of effort while others aren’t doing anything. The consequences of their behavior even cost the team by forcing us to cancel one of our tournaments. How I would typically handle it is I would let my frustrations build up and complain to the people who couldn’t do anything about my situation (ex: my roommates, my parents). The lowest point is when I become passive aggressive towards my peers, which can only worsen the situation.
I kept this same attitude up until recently. Then I decided that I should try and see things from their perspective. I came to realize that I, myself, was not being a good communicator. No one knew that I felt this way or that I felt that I was doing too much work, because I never expressed my feelings. Then, when I would be passive aggressive, they would be surprised at me because I haven’t communicated with them. This was a very freeing discovery, because it felt like I wasn’t powerless in the situation anymore, and I felt that my peers would be willing to at least listen to me. Since this discovery, I feel that I am a much better communicator with my other team leaders and that they are more receptive than I thought they would be. I’ve also learned some things that I could improve in my own leadership skills from people feeling comfortable to bring it up to me. We’ve avoided many problems or festering anger because there’s now a platform for communication where we feel as though we can openly share our concerns with each other.
I remember taking the cal poly “what strengths are you” test, and my number one strength was empathy. So, I really should be good at it–that is just not the case though. I guess in terms of being empathetic, I can understand that people are, generally, not out to get anyone. Like, if you are studying in the library, and someone decides to take out their phone and have a conversation. They are not trying to disrupt you, maybe they can be more considerate, but some understanding has to be done by myself: they are simply talking. But it goes further than that. In our busy world, society encourages the hustle and bustle of people moving around and doing as much as they can. It is easy to feel that everyone has their head down, running as fast as they can. That they are looking out for themselves primarily, and then family and close friends second. And it is so easy to feel like no one cares about anyone. But that is simply not the case.
Throwing trash inside of a just emptied trash can by a custodian (in front of him), I wondered whether it would be more considerate it to throw the paper towel inside of his bin, or the newly lined trashcan. I proceeded to throw it away into the new bin. See, its not that we try to throw crap into eachother’s faces, but sometimes it just can’t be helped. In general, however, people do care. We are running a race, but we are on the same team. It’s like ninja warrior, where the competitors are facing the course, and in general root for eachother’s success. It’s just hard to express, and hard to see. I tell myself that I will go into my teacher’s office hours and speak in class but I don’t. So it would be hard for any of them to see that I care about them, the class, or anything else. Because to them I am just a student with my head down trying to get out of cal poly as fast as possible right?
I never quite got around to finishing this post. I have housemates that never quite get around to finishing all of their dishes. I myself do not get to all my dishes as fast as I should, but I make sure to get my dishes within a 48 hour time period. Because these dishes are my responsibility. However, I often extend my hand and try to wash as many dishes that are not mine. I do this for a few reasons; if I do not wash the dishes there is not enough space for me to wash my dishes, dishes sitting in a sink begin to smell bad, I need to use the frying pan some times when it is dirty, and lastly because frankly their washing skills need improvement. But whenever I wash their dishes, I am always left wondering ” how did it become this messy? And don’t they realize that I washed a significant amount of dishes that are not mine”? So I am constantly waiting for them to simply catch up and wash their own dishes. But on the flip note, if my dishes are ever washed, my first instinct is “ohhh my dishes are not here, that is nice, I am relieved from my washing duties today”. But I catch myself and wash 5 dishes that are not mine to replace the 3 dishes that were. I am not here to show boat, I am merely trying to shine a light on responsibility. Often times, if we do not find ourselves directly responsible for a negative event, we remove ourselves from it and say it is not our fault. Case and point: when I wash dishes, I sometimes scowl and think “who’s dirty dish is this?” –only to realize it is the pan that I forgot to wash last round of cleaning.
Ultimately, the degrading environment is a giant beast that–as a whole–we are unwilling to tackle. Taking the reign does not seem like it is going to work as well as one would hope, and leading by example is just as ineffective. If one does not feel responsible for climate change, if one does not see how every action impacts the planet and other people in a possibly negative way, then the adjustments of actions will not occur. Alternatively, if responsibility is not present, then empathy could theoretically replace the drive of responsibility. Instead of “oh these dishes are mine, I need to do some washing “, it may be “well the kitchen should not be this messy, maybe I should wash something”. However, lacking the feelings of responsibility and empathy will simply lead to no change in behavior.
I noticed that I “other-ize” people when I am driving. It’s hard for me to have empathy for people who aren’t following simple driving rules. I always wonder why would someone “drive like that?” Why wouldn’t they just put on their blinker? Why do they insist on cutting people off? Four way stop signs are not that hard to understand, why don’t people get it? But I must realize that I am not a perfect driver. I brake late, occasionally, speed, don’t always let people into my lane. I am a selfish driver like everyone else but I always think in the moment that I am right! I need to be more empathetic while driving and consider that there is person behind the wheel, not just an empty seat to yell at.
Before I started this intervention, I thought it would be one of the easier interventions to tackle on.
As the workload of the quarter piles up, I started to get frustrated whenever my mother tries to call me when I am working or doing homework. It is not like I don’t love them. Somehow, I started to have the feeling that my parents don’t understand me and don’t understand what I am going through with my academics. I was impatient with my mother whenever she wanted to talk about my academics or wanted an explanation of certain activities that I am doing. After starting on this intervention, I started to put myself in my parents’ shoes, and tried to use their lenses to see. I found out that my mother was upset with my sudden change of attitudes, and I felt bad for making her feel this way due to my own frustrations with school. I started to call my mother instead waiting for her calls, and she was surprised to see the changes that I was making. I realized how much my mother missed me when I am over in San Luis Obispo, and the only way she could talk to me is through phone calls. Looking from my mother’s perspective, I started to have more patience when I am talking to her and able to understand that she actually wanted to know what I am going through (but just my stubbornness refuse to share with her). I will try to be much more patient with my mother when we talk, and try to share the stuffs I am going through with her.
I’m generally told I have an over-abundance of empathy, especially when it comes to people I care about. I am quick to excuse behavior because I rationalize it as a result of other factors going on in their lives. I tend to do this to a fault, letting myself and my own feelings be trampled in the process. I have been actively working on that for the past year. I have been trying to find the balance between being empathetic and understanding of the people I care about and understanding my own worth, understanding that while I can empathize with what a person is going through, that doesn’t make it okay to let myself be trampled over in the process. The only relationships in my life where I struggle with empathy are those with my parents. I’ve always had complicated relationships with my parents. Both of them have caused me immense pain in different ways, and neither of them have ever acknowledged or apologized for their treatment of me. Because of this, I have a lot of resentment for both of my parents, resentment that spills out at times that don’t make sense to either of them because they don’t understand where I’m coming from. I have, on a couple of occasions, tried to make them understand where I am coming from by either explaining how something they did hurt me or by letting them into my life and each time, they have disappointed me, either by denying or justifying their actions or by making me regret sharing details of my life with them. This has resulted in me keeping my parents out of my decisions the past few years and only telling them what I’m up to when it is convenient for me. This week, in an attempt to let my mother into my life, I had a 2 hour long conversation with her about my choice to study abroad, my wish to join the Peace Corps after graduating, and then go on to a graduate program after that. She was vaguely supportive, assuring me that while she was happy I was looking at my options, she wanted to make sure I stayed reasonable. This is generally how this type of conversation goes with my mother: vague happiness, but an undercurrent of disapproval disguised as concern. So, the conversation wasn’t quite a success, but at least I tried. I will try to have a similar conversation with my father next time I talk to him.
This year, I am living with my friend from high school (Kordell) and two other guys who I had never met (Ethan and Chris). Ethan and I disagree about almost everything political. He is a staunch conservative, Republican, Trump-supporter, where as I fall more on the liberal/progressive side. Some of the things he says truly shock me; it’s become clear that he and I fundamentally disagree about things that I didn’t even know people could disagree with me about. I come from Santa Cruz, which is a commune of peace-obsessed stoner hippies who like to surf, hunt for mushrooms, never dress formally, and sing songs around beach campfires, so I was not even used to talking to people with views like Ethan’s, let alone living with one. I thought people like him were a small minority confined to southern states, but with Trump’s election it has become clear that they make up a significant portion of Americans.
Our political discussions started off very smoothly and this was because I never took a clear side. I kept my opinions mostly secret and would really just ask Ethan questions. It would start with him saying something that I found appalling, such as “the KKK is a non-threatening organization.” I would remain calm and bipartisan on the outside, and just ask him non threatening questions about why he thought what he thought. These discussions could actually be very productive and we would often find some common ground. However, on November 8th it kinda went out the window. Trump got elected, and I could no longer contain myself. I was deeply disturbed by America’s decision and our discussions turned to passionate arguments. I’ve been angry at what I feel is ignorance on the side of Trump supporters and since Ethan is the only one of them I am close to, he became my outlet for the questions I have for and points I want to make to all of Trump supporters. Now, he groups me with all liberals, I group him with all Trump supporters, and our arguments are just me vs. him instead of intellectual discussions. This result troubles me. I actually like Ethan a lot and he likes me. If even we can’t have a productive political discussion, then I fear for our ability to mend the divide in our country. I will try harder to empathize with him, understand where he is coming from, and maybe even find some truth in his beliefs.
FALL 2016 below this line:
Throughout the quarter I have been working on how to be more empathetic with a close friend of mine. I am a little late posting because during the intervention week I didn’t feel as if I did a great job at it, and wanted more time to work on it. He is a very close friend of mine, but can frustrate me often times by being difficult to deal with, or just generally stubborn. Sometimes it is hard for me to break down the sarcastic friendship we have and talk seriously about things with this particular relationship. However, whenever I do, I feel as if we reach a new level of understanding. The things he does that can bother me stem from things going on in his life that I can definitely empathize with and understand why we may seem difficult from my perspective from time to time. Reaching that understanding with one friend makes me realize that anyone I find difficult probably has something going on that I would understand and empathize with if I were to know about it. Every person you run into isn’t going to share everything, so instead I just need to be more patient and realize they most likely have their reasons for coming off the way they do. I will continue to work to be more patient with the people in my life.
Earlier last week I got a message from my uncle asking me to call him. I haven’t seen or spoken to this uncle in years and he is from my dad’s side of the family–whom I lost all communication with when I decided to come to college. At first I was angry because he provided no explanation as to why he needed me to call and because his message was so blunt, but I later found out that he was in the area back home and thought I had already graduated and was home (awks). I had to explain that I was still in school and would not be able to meet up that weekend. I think I misjudged his intentions, but only because the last time we had spoken he was trying to market some product he sells to me…Either way, this is a situation in which I could have been more understanding that he was simply reaching out to me for a phone call.
This year has been a change for me because I am living with a different group of people. Although it is a good experience to live in a new house with other types of people, I continue to run into issues over small things with one of the guys I live with. As an empathetic person, I always try to look at other people’s perspective and really learn from other points of view. Being empathetic with my roommate has proven to be a challenge for me because it seems like he is often on edge. He has told me a little of his past and why he is often on edge, nonetheless, my current living situation does not seem sustainable for either me or my roommate. I know I am probably not a perfect roommate to him either, I think we just have different values. So far, what I have found to work is staying away from criticizing, spending more time alone, and ignoring outbursts.
Personal talk 101 right now. About a month ago I was kicked out of my house here in SLO by my ex. I had finally grown the strength to admit to them that I didn’t feel the way I used to, so we broke up. I knew I would have to move out, but I was definitely not expecting to receive 3 days notice to have all my stuff out. After being homeless for a little over a week, I was absolutely furious at how the whole situation had played out. I felt as though I was being punished for being honest. Though I still have a bitter taste in my mouth I know I should have been more understanding of how they felt and the major shock this had been to them as well.
Last Saturday night I had gone to a party at a friends house. After the party was over we went to taco bell which was extremely crowded as it was Halloween weekend. A Cal Poly student behind us in line noticed my friends rainbow outfit and the makeup I was wearing and started saying things to us like “look at these queers”, “fucking faggots”, “fuck gay pride” and “so disgusting”. Also after we had gotten our food and were leaving he tried to get in a fight with one of my friends and when we ignored him he said that we were all “giant fags”. While we ignored him it still made me very angry and I really wanted to say something to him. I think I have every right to be angry as stuff like this happens all the time to myself and my friends but after it happened I tried to think about his point of view. I thought of the way he was raised and how his own anger or other feelings play into the way he thinks. I have nothing but anger, contempt, and pity for queerphobic people and I think its my right to feel that way, but I try to remember that people can change and that maybe that hatred comes from their own fear or pain. Looking back I could have instead of responding in anger said something kind to him. I should have realized that maybe he is the product of his parents and our cultures views although there is no excuse for his behavior.
Nick Wagner: Last weekend I worked Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night like I do every week. On Thursday I was scheduled to be done at 8 p.m. but my manager kept me until 8:30. I had plans right after work but it was not really a big deal that he kept me an extra half hour. On Friday night, I was supposed to be done at 9 and did not get cut until 9:45 which frustrated me a little bit but I did not say anything to my manager about it. Saturday night I was scheduled to be done at 9 again but when I asked my manager at 9:10 if I could clock out, he said he was going to keep me a while longer. This frustrated me because I had plans right after work again and I felt like there was no reason for me to stay at work longer considering that we were not busy at the time and other employees were just standing around. This time I showed my frustration towards my manager a little bit and gave very little effort for the rest of my shift and led to a small argument between my manager and I. Looking back, I should have understood his position more. He was only trying to do his job and make sure that he kept enough staff on board. The manager has a difficult job of keeping everyone happy while still running the store effectively. It would have been helpful for me to realize this at the time and instead of being frustrated at my manager, I could have understood his point of view of the situation better. Also, since I did not say anything to my manager when he kept me late on thursday and friday, He probably assumed I was fine with it and did not think I would mind staying a little longer on Saturday as well. This is a reasonable assumption for him to make, next time I want to be cut at a specific time I should let him know ahead of time.
Nik hil Thakar: Several weeks ago I lent one of my friends a sum of money. I made a deal with him that he could pay me half of the amount in two weeks and the second half two weeks after that. He told me that he only needed a couple of days to pay me back, and told me not to worry about it. His parents were going to send him a check because his car got totaled and he was going to get paid for it. A week passed and he said that his parents were going to mail him the check very soon. However, in the next couple of days following that he said that him and his parents got into a predicament and he wasn’t going to get that check as soon as he had anticipated. This bothered me not because I was in dire need for the money, but because he had given me assurance for something that ended up not being true. In other words, it was the principle of being paid back on time that meant the most to me. Then I realized that everyone comes from different backgrounds, and has different relationships with their parents. From there I felt empathetic in the situation because I have had times where certain plans fell through and I needed to figure out what to do. I’ve learned that don’t promise someone something if you are not 100 percent sure that you can come through with it.
Gracie Nino: My roommates and I live pretty far from campus in a neighborhood area with absolutely no college kids around us. We try to be as respectful as possible to the neighbors around us especially because we know they probably didn’t want college aged kids living around them. We have an elderly man that lives next to us and has asked us not to park in front of his house, which although there is very limited parking and sometimes we have to park a far ways down we have always respected. The other day I met him for the first time and tried to introduce myself and asked how he was doing. Instead of answering, however, he replied with “Parking is already out of control, this is ridiculous” I was frustrated and confused because first of all none of us had parked in front of his house and none of our other neighbors has either. Second all I was trying to be was be friendly and I genuinely wanted to meet him. I took a step back though and realized he has trouble walking and a hard time getting to his car so accessibility is extremely important to him. While he could’ve gone about it a bit more tactfully I realize that he was trying to eliminate part of the struggle he has to deal with in his everyday life. I’ve done my best to be empathetic to his issue and understand his concern about the whole parking situation.
Ari Burton: I have 3 jobs, I work at the campus Organic Farm, and as a server at both Charlie’s Place and Nino’s Grill. I’m also in 21 units. My roommates and I, 4 girls total, have a pretty decent system for obtaining all of our household items. I often do the grocery shopping and have people pay me back and we share most things. However, Gracie and I moved in a few months before the other two girls so we bought all of the furniture and major more expensive items. The other two girls have a tendency to take advantage of things, not pay back, to no contribute to buying items or doing any of the household chores. When everyone moved in all of the large cardboard boxes were left in the garage and I wanted to be able to use the garage so for 3 months I brought it up but never did it get cleared out. Eventually Gracie and I decided to clear it out ourselves even though none of it was ours. It’s really easy to get extremely frustrated with these other two girls and I often find myself complaining about them. But one day one of them said something that struck me and made me realize that they were raised in very different households than I was. I grew up with working parents on a ranch where I always had to contribute while they were both raised in a higher socioeconomic area, with moms who stayed home to take care of the kids. They are also 2 years younger than I and this is their first year living away from their families and have to take care of themselves. Though yes, I still do get frustrated at times, I just keep reminding myself that they were raised differently, that they haven’t had the same types of experiences and that they probably don’t view what I view as rude or careless in the same way.
Ricardo Lopez: My new roommate has been living with me since the beginning of summer and for the most part we get along really well. He and I have similar interest and don’t disagree much at all. At times though we do get a little cranky with each other and he can do things that bother me. We both use the kitchen a lot and have pretty different schedules, this results in the kitchen getting messy and it can be unclear who made the mess. Earlier this week I had a friend come visit and it had me a little stressed out. I was very busy with school and had the intention of finishing all my homework before my friend arrived. This resulted in me being a little grumpy as the week winded down. When I came home on Friday a few hours before my friend was supposed to arrive the kitchen was an absolute mess. I instantly became angry with my roommate and figured he didn’t have any consideration for me. As I began cleaning the kitchen I slowed down and tried to put myself into his shoes. I had never asked him to keep the kitchen clean, I didn’t remind him that my friend was coming either. This lack of communication made me reconsider who was at fault in the situation. I could have been more considerate and reminded him that my friend was coming for the weekend instead of assuming he already knew. Also I had no idea what his schedule had been like for the week, he easily could have been just as busy as me. As I thought about these things I realized how silly it was that I was actually getting upset. Being more empathetic resulted in a greater understanding of the situation and reduced my anger.
Allison Tuso: I have lived with the same roommates for the past three years now, and obviously it has worked out since we have to decided to live together each year. I lived with a roommates in the same room as me for the past two years. For the most part , I am a clean person and like to keep my room, surroundings clean and in order. My roommate on the other hand is not a clean person. I found myself cleaning up our room very often and I would even make her bed because it got so bad. She didn’t mind that I cleaned our room, and at first I did not mind either. But then it became a hassle because I would be too busy, so our room would just not get cleaned. Now I live in my own room, but have found that our house is a complete mess with our floors having mud on them, the dishes are piled up, and clothes/ shoes are left in the living room and kitchen table. I have found myself being the only one to take out the trash, clean the floors, and put other’s clothes back in their rooms. I realized that this may be due to them having midterms, so to fix this problem I decided to do a chore chart where the easier chores can be given to those who have a midterm that week so that they can focus more on school than on their chores. In this way, the work is split up and on days where I have a lot of work to do, I can do the easier chores that do not take up much time.
Alejandro Montenegro: I’ve always been somewhat attentive towards being empathetic towards people and their situations. We all go through all kinds of problems and situations but the most important aspect of empathy, in my opinion, is to withhold judgement. So many times we may be angry or completely indifferent to others situations and we completely forget how to be human. In writing this, at first I had no idea what to write about, but shortly realized that in fact I have been completely unempathetic to many people as I have been so focused on finishing a couple projects for work. Not only would I be angry with unfinished deadlines, but i’d lash out at anyone and anything, not even once taking into account others perspectives. I wouldn’t listen to anyone, wouldn’t think of what they were going through, or anything for that matter. When someone in the team is having issues, instead of being aggressive, its much more efficient (and empathetic) to offer help instead. Instead of wasting time dwelling with anger, all that energy could be used to make things work out a lot more efficiently. Treating people as important, no matter who or where they’re from, is also a major part of empathy as it helps them perform and live more healthy lives. Without empathy, everything from family to business, will inevitably lead to problems and even separation. Although I’m usually empathetic, I have realized that sometimes anger gets the best of me, and causes me to lose sight of what is actually important. This “empathetic intervention” is something I am definitely going to have to work on more often, especially under times of stress, as it can really help with staying centered.
Dagur Guðmundsson: I work during the summers as a fly fishing guide at the most productive atlantic salmon river in the world, West Rangá, Iceland. Being a guide is a stressful job, very demanding physically and emotionally, I work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, for three months. This means that I only get about 5 hours of sleep on a good night, which often can make me cranky. Sometimes this leads to me being unempathetic towards my clients who have paid over $2,000 per person per day to fish this river, which is not good. So I have to make a conscious effort to be an empathetic person when working, to realize that they have high expectations and that I am there to make this the most enjoyable trip of their lives, and to get them into a few salmon. This involves smiling, being upbeat when I don’t feel upbeat, and doing things I may not want to do. I had to realize that these clients had paid to have an enjoyable week, and that I was being paid to make sure that happened. Not sure if that is a 100% empathetic reaction but it is what came to my mind as I thought about this project.
Harrison Waschura: I’ve lived with my roommates for a little over a year now, and we get along well. I certainly feel closer to two of my roommates more so than the other three, but we still all get along well. Throughout our months living together I’ve been building up a resentment of the clutter, dishes, dust, clothes, shoes and things which are left throughout our house. The clutter and disorganization affects me — I always feel such a relief whenever cleaning occurs. I’ve become particularly frustrated at two of my roommates who often leave their dishes strewn about the kitchen. Once when I tried to bring this issue up to one of them, I was met with a pointed “You’re not my dad.” I never felt like I was attempting to occupy that role, or trying to hold any power or status over him; I just want to be able to cook in a clean kitchen. That dad statement triggered a reflection on my part, and I tried to put myself in my roommate’s shoes. I realize my inclination for cleanliness is a product of my parents programming me to think that way. I realize that not everyone feels this way. My roommates usually do take care of their dishes eventually, so I tried to think of a solution which would make our kitchen feel more organized, and let my roommates wait to take of their dishes. We implemented a dish bin by the sink, so that dirty dishes can be held in a small bin instead of on the counter tops and stove. Now I feel like I have an option when I see a dish that I wish weren’t in the way. I’m also glad that this option doesn’t assault my roommates ideas about our relationship, or force them to change their identity.
Madumita Natarajan : For the past couple of weeks, I have been asking my manager for a few days off during Thanksgiving break. I work in retail and know that it can get crazy around that time, so I told her that I was willing to work Black Friday but needed to get a few days off beforehand to go home and she said she would consider it. Despite this, every time I would put in a request for some days off, she would keep declining them. I was really frustrated and finally decided to confront her about the situation yesterday. She said that the amount of time off requests for that week had already been maxed out for awhile. I was initially really angry that she told me she would consider it knowing that it was already maxed out, but then thought about it and realized that she obviously could not give everyone time off. I felt empathetic because although I was upset, I knew that she was just doing her job as a manager by making sure that there would be enough employees to be able to handle Black Friday.
Sandy Shane: My twin sister is very verbal about everything that goes on in her life and complains to me incessantly about every little thing. I usually just tell her that she is being dramatic and stressing for no reason. But I have recently realized that me telling her to just move on is not going to actually make her ignore the situation or stop being unhappy about it. I am trying now to listen better to each complaint as its own situation and offer real advice to help her feel better about each specific one. In particular, she recently did not get a job that she was really hoping for. Rather than giving my usual “everything happens for a reason, you can’t get everything you want” speech, I really let her know that I feel sorry for her and that if she keeps trying for different things something else will come along. Just yesterday she was accepted into the major that she wanted (the most prestigious one on her campus) and I think it meant a lot more to her when I shared my excitement with her because I have also been empathic for her academic downs.
Sahil Oberoi: I am currently enrolled in 22 units this term and am an active member in a couple on-campus organizations as well. Needless to say, this quarter has been pushing me to my limits in terms of time and energy. I have 2 roommates I live with at home who I usually either encounter very early in the morning or very late in the evening as I leave to school or return. As strenuous of a situation this was, it was really bothersome to come home every night to do all dishes myself. Given the simple chore, I got irritated and continuously would do the dishes every single day. I grew furious night by night until one day I came home to see my roommates in despair and found out they both had lost a friend from their high-school. I didn’t consider a lot of the circumstances that may be going on in their personal lives that most probably hindered their behavior. More so, I myself was complaining of how little time I had to do the things I need. But in turn, the empathetic nature resounded deep inside of me. I realize that there is so much more to what may be on the surface and the value of being a good, supportive roommate can be in the long-haul. I couldn’t have actually been more thankful to reflect and shed light on this intervention.
Lezah Winick: Not to toot my own horn, but I have always been a very empathetic person. When I was little I was most likely crying when my friends where hurt even if i was fine. This past week an example of my empathy was when my friend got too drunk so we had to leave the event that we were at. I was upset at first because this isn’t the first time we had to take care of her from alchohol related reasons. Then I realized in the moment there was nothing she could change about her actions right then and I know that I have put her in this situation before. Because I was supportive and caring of her that night the next day she thanked me profusely and promised she would work on controlling her drinking habbits next time. I know that she will also be there for me if I ever have a time of need.
Elise Barsch: Where as I fell into the sophomore slump last year, many of my friends seem to be having a sort of junior year crisis this quarter. I’m pretty concerned for one of my friends in particular, whose behavior has become increasingly.. erratic. We study together in the library a few times a week, during which she mostly talks in rapid speed about pop culture, political ideologies, and various people in our social sphere. She has also started to drink, which she did not do freshman or sophomore year. This weekend she hosted a Halloween party, at which she was very drunk throughout and appeared rather dead inside as she stumbled around asking people if they were having a good time. It was quite the contrast from her recently long-winded speech – but even more alarming. This time last year she experienced a family tragedy, for which she did not let herself grieve and her roommates (and closest friends) did not address with her. She expressed to me a couple weeks ago that the impact of this situation, combined with her increased interest in partying, was driving her and her roommates apart, but “that’s just how it is.” It is obviously weighing more heavily on her than she lets on. When I was going through a rough time last year, she was always there to provide nonjudgmental support, where I felt most of my other friends were either avoidant or quick to make assumptions about my shift in attitude – which only made things worse. I have been trying to offer a listening ear where her roommates have not, and I am debating whether or not to more explicitly express my concern for the changes in her behavior – especially after the Halloween party. I’m trying to remember what I wanted to hear when I was struggling last year, although she is obviously not the same person. I’m still figuring it out, but I think the most important thing right now is to not place judgment.
Sarah Mete : This past week, I’ve been pretty stressed out my two jobs. I work as a Veterinary Receptionist for one of them, and we deal with a lot of ridiculously entitled clients on a daily basis. It has always frustrated me how people march into our clinic and expect immediate service, or when people get frustrated over the cost of medication (which is something I obviously cannot control; I don’t make the rules). This week, after getting particularly frustrated at a client who came into her appointment drunk, I realized that I was making myself miserable by getting angry at these people. I made it a point to correct my thoughts as they were occurring. When a client was being rude to me, I imagined that he/she was probably under a lot of stress and probably didn’t mean to come off that way. When someone complained about the price of medication, I figured it was because they had a lot of other monetary issues going on.
At my other job, I am a Customer Service Trainer. We’ve been under new management for about three months now, and a third of our staff has left as a result. This new manager is incredibly micromanaging, the polar opposite of our laissez-faire manager we had before. It’s been driving everyone crazy, including myself. I am the longest working associate with the company that isn’t a key-holding manager, and suddenly I am having someone breathe down my neck every few minutes when I’ve done nothing wrong. So this week, I continued being pleasant with my manager (I don’t like her, but I am never rude to her), and I tried to ask her more about what was going on in her life. Turns out her husband has been going through some personal issues, and corporate is putting a lot of stress on her with deadlines for this remodel we are doing. I always figured she had stuff going on, but I guess I got so caught up with my own stress to really think about someone other than me. It was nice to remind myself of that.
Meagan Redstone: Ive been racking my brain all week for a noteworthy empathy intervention, and frankly never imagined it would be this hard. It’s not that I don’t have alot of empathetic experiences, it’s actually quite the opposite: which one do I choose? I read on here someone describing their experience with daycare and what I like to fondly call “birth-control-children” or kids that drive you so crazy you tell you’reself your never having them. I too work at a daycare, although mine is through a gym not a church, and I’ve grown to love many of the children who come through the doors. But, like anything, with the good comes the bad. The problem children who make you question why you are there and what kind of people raised these little devils. It’s extreemly difficult to step outside of my own anger and frustration to understand that from their point of view they don’t understand what they are doing is wrong. It’s hard to remain cool headed and kind, as well as authoritive and knowledgeable about how to teach the child why what they are doing is wrong. But when I’m able to keep my cool and get on the same level as the child, showing them the right thing to do, I feel 100x better then if I yell at them and put them in time out. Leading an empathetic life is about putting someone else’s feelings above your own.
Miranda Mills: This week has been a hussle towards a big deadline for a design competition that’s taking place this coming Friday. All of my fellow classmates are participating as well. The architecture building has been a mess. I am typically a stress case when working on such a project, and usually fail to see outside of my personal problems when working towards a deadline. But, in this case, everyone I care about around me is going through similar stresses. I have always appreciated when a friend took time to help me through a difficult project like this, but more often than not, do not reciprocate the help (whatever form it takes). And I’m obviously aware that my friends are busy and have reasons to be stressed as well. So, I wanted to take on the helper role this week. I approached this empathy intervention with the intention to go out of my way to help my friends and classmates with their tasks, their positive attitudes, and time management. Need a box of chocolates? I’ll be there. Need someone to help you assemble your project? I got hands. However, as the week went on, this big dream dwindled to “be positive and encouraging to others despite my inner stress and frustrations.” And, the most I have done has been taking time to listen and talk to people. I don’t think I imagined “taking time for someone despite my schedule conflicts” as a noble or worthy goal for this week. However, it’s what I accomplished. And I feel as though it wasn’t enough. I will be continuing to explore ways to be there and be present for my friends and classmates in the next few days and report back.
Chelsea Glasnow: Back when I was in high school, my dad was confronted with some health problems which provoked him to start going to indoor spin/cyling classes consistently. Needless to say, while I have been away at college, he and my mom have become part of the “spin community;” therefore, to this day when im visiting home, I join them for their spin ritual.In addition, my mom used to be a fitness instructor so she has always made my sister and I conscious of being respectful to the instructors who put in the time and effort to create a routine and lead a class. Hence, it has always bothered me when people are in a class listening to their own music and/or doing their own routine and exercises. But although it bugs me when people are disrespectful during a classes, I am hesitant to confront the individuals due to a circumstance I witnessed:
One Saturday morning, my mom, dad and I all took our places in our usual spin class. That particular morning there was a new individual on a bike in the front row, whom none of the “regulars” recognized. Throughout the workout the man was listening to his own headphones, making grunting sounds, and chanting lyrics to his own music. Finally, one of the “regulars” (who is also a full-time school teacher) jumped off her bike and stormed over to the man, yanking the headphones out of the man’s ears and confronting him on how rude and disrespectful he was being and how he outa know better. Embarrassed and clearly aggravated, the man attempted to continue his workout without his headphones, then shortly after walked out of the class early.
Come to find out, that man had special needs and some psychological/developmental issues that gave him a legitimate reason for not knowing better. The lady who had confronted him felt absolutely terrible, but she was never able to apologize because the man never showed up again.
Long story short, this experience serves as a constant reminder to me that we all have to have empathy for each individual’s personal needs, because often times things are not as they seem. We have to consider the bigger picture. What is important in the grand scheme of things is that we are patient, rational, and sympathetic; thus, ensuring that we show grace to those around us on a consistent basis.
Eva Brundage: Every Sunday I run a nursery at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in downtown SLO. I watch all the children at the church who are under four years old. Most of the kids are great and rarely have any behavioral issues. However, there are two kids who are notorious for their behavior. They hit, pull hair, scream, throw tantrums, color on the walls, steal kids snacks, flip over pitchers of water, and even eat the dirt out of flower pots. I constantly need to balance playing with the group of kids and policing my two trouble makers. Initially, I was a bit frustrated with these two because they made my job unnecessarily hard being straight menaces. They were a danger to the other kids, literally ripping out a chunk of a little girls hair, whipping blocks at kids faces, you name it. However, these boys have become my absolute favorite. I found out they were adopted by a family in SLO after being in foster care. They both were born crack babies which is why they do not feel pain the way most kids do, and they are much less developed mentally than kids their age. My time with these boys has become treasured as I realize I have the potential to help teach and influence these boys ever more than any of the other kids in the room. I also empathize with their mother who has 4 children on her own, along with these three adopted kids. Being a mom is one thing, being a mom of 7 is another thing, and being a mom of 4 children that are your own blood, and three that were fostered crack babies shows patience and love that every person should strive for.
Christian Barreto: Last week I went home down to Los Angeles to visit my parents because I received a grieving call from my mother about the troubles she had been undergoing. To provide some perspective as to how rare and shocking the call was for me, my mom has never come to me to complain about her personal troubles with my dad or from her two jobs that she works. My mom has always been a strong women, borderline machine when it comes to work ethic, she refuses to be weak around people and she gets thing done as efficiently and as soon as possible. However, I know my mom is human, and like any other human, she feels pain and exhaustion. For 8 years now, she and my dad have had marriage troubles, and both of them have always tried shielding those troubles from me (even though it’s futile considering that I have always noticed despite their efforts). But for the first time she was revealing and acknowledging those problems to me and I right away let her know that its okay for her to let me know these things. I know that her intentions are to not add anymore stress to me because I’m in school and I get enough stress as it is here but I don’t care. I want to know about the problems that my parents are having and I want to be able to have the chance to mediate those problems. I’ve always been empathetic to the problems my friends and family have and I’ll always be a listening ear for both my parents because at the start and at the end of every day, family is my number one priority. Hopefully, my talk with them from my visit last week continues to have a lasting effect because for the first time in a while, things are looking up for my parents.
Robert Gray: Earlier this year one of my roommates got hit by a car cycling home from class. After the accident he had hurt his leg pretty badly and would not be able to cycle or even walk to class. Since we live far from campus and are not immediately near a bus stop I and my other roommates had to give him rides to and from class. It is a weird situation because if no one gave him a ride he physically can not get to class. I have tried my best to give him rides when I could but sometimes it would be an inconvenience or frustrate me he was asking for a ride to class as I was super busy. Everything changed when I fell skating home from class last Monday. After my accident I to was hurt and could not use my normal mean of transportation to commute to and from school. I too had to ask my roommates for rides to class. The moment I had to ask for a ride I completely under stood where my roommate was coming from in the previous weeks. I felt his pain of not being able to do things on your own and having to rely on others. Being able to empathize with him changed my perspective about the whole situation.
Ariana Brandao: This week I’d been experiencing a painful time in a relationship, and was feeling less outgoing and open to human interaction on the level of which I tend to be more comfortable with on a daily basis. In this state of avoiding interaction and potential conversations, I felt more sensitive to the pain of others and empathizing with relationship difficulty, loss, and change overall. I generally find myself in a constant pursuit of the silver lining, and seeking the light of every situation. This perspective tends to be blinding, and serves as a shield to protect me from my discomfort with pain and ‘down news’. I often create a silver lining for my friends when they confide, and have done so at the detriment of honoring what pain had been present for them. I feel increasingly more empathetic to the daily experiences of loss and mourning and how to respect those emotional processes in people around me, and within myself.
Jim Marett: My girlfriend sent me this horrible message card on Facebook and I was shocked she would do such a thing. I called her up and asked her for an explanation, she said it was just a Halloween joke. I told her that this was way out of character and that she needed to remove it immediately. I also said that there must be a deeper issue here because of the nature of the card. She just laughed and told me that if I did not believe her that was fine and she would not talk to me anymore. I just said no worries and please refrain from such inappropriate behavior. I slept on the situation and when waking in the morning came to the realization that my girlfriend was from a different country and that she might have a different perspective than me on such matters. I pulled up the Facebook page and sure enough the message had been deleted. I have to realize that not everyone sees things the way I do and that listening closely and having enough empathy is very important in any relationship if it’s going to be meaningful.
Eli Schulman: We have been working on a project at our house to build a deck in the back yard. The first day we started, one of our roommates left and was with his girlfriend the whole time. We were all extremely frustrated, as he had been the most eager to get started, but was nowhere to be seen once we actually started work. Again, this weekend we were working on the deck, and toward the end of the day I had to leave because I had made evening plans. He continued to work on the deck when I left. It put the situation in perspective for me, as I realized that he probably had wanted to help the first day, but had had a preexisting obligation. Following this realization I’ve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt whenever I would have previously gotten frustrated. It was a reminder of the idea that you never know the whole story, and that people often have more going on then what they reveal.
Aditi Vepa: Until yesterday, I have had a lot of trouble trying to think of how to have an empathetic intervention. I have tried to be empathetic for most of my life, and I consider it to be one of my greatest strengths. However, sometimes we all get caught up in our emotions and forget to consider how another person feels. This is exactly what happened to me on Saturday night. Parking on the street I live in is extremely competitive, which is why I sometimes catch people parking right in front of our garage, blocking my car in. This has been extremely frustrating as someone recovering from a knee surgery. I am still unable to walk long distances, bike, or even walk downhill to be able to catch the bus. Therefore, my car has been my main form of transportation. On Saturday, I was an hour late to a volunteering event because someone blocked my car. This volunteering event took place all day, so by the time I got home I was completely exhausted. As I was going to my house, I saw that once again someone who was not a resident of my house had parked in front of our garage, making it impossible for me to park in my house. By this point, I was extremely angry, tired, and hungry so I wrote a very aggressive note and put it in their windshield. Suffice to say they moved their car. Now thinking back on it, I think I may have been too rash- especially in the way I wrote the note. I also needed to consider how desperate for parking this person must have been. While I still don’t necessarily think this person is justified in our driveway, I still need to consider why they might have done it in the first place.
Daniel Stewart : It’s very interesting how the timing of this intervention came to play in my life. I’ve always believed that I was a fairly empathetic person, and that I could really understand and the feelings and actions of another person pretty well. For the past couple of months, myself and a couple coworkers have suspected a female coworker of stealing our communal tips. Just this last week, she was finally caught red handed by another employee who subsequently informed our owner of what happened. The girl has since been fired. Now, immediately, it was so incredibly easy to be furious with her, as she was taking earned money from other struggling college students as well as individuals with kids, all of which need every penny. But, with this intervention in mind, I tried really hard to understand where she was coming from. I asked around with the general question of…”Why? Why steal from us? “Does this girl think that she works harder and deserves more (even though that was definitely not the case)? From asking around, I found out that this girl’s boyfriend had just broken up with her and kicked her out of her house. So, this young woman had to now find a new place on her own, has a new car payment, pay for insurance and the rest of her bills all on her own. Maybe she saw stealing as an easy was to simply survive this time of her life. At this point, my emotions swiftly changed from anger to sadness and pity. I transitioned from seeing only my perspective on the issue, to seeing things through her eyes. It doesn’t excuse what she did and ultimately she is worse off now (unemployed with an employer who will not recommend her to any other perspective employer) as she was before. She had a job with upward mobility, good coworkers, and an awesome owner/boss, and now, she has nothing. Was stealing $20 bucks every shift worth it to her? Over the course of a few months, working 5 days a week, I estimate that she stole roughly $1200 from her coworkers. That number is big enough to make your blood boil, but I now think about how she must feel: embarrassed, distraught, worried, afraid, disgusted, ashamed, etc. I truly feel sorry for her, and my heart breaks for her that she has put herself in this situation. If she would have asked for help, I’m positive that her needs would have been fulfilled. I’m saddened that she resorted to such low means of earning extra money, but after this intervention, I can understand more about why she engaged in the behavior.
Kalena: I remember very distinctly there was this girl my freshman year of high school who was really mean. She always bragged, was consistently putting other people, and was hardly ever in a good mood. I really could not stand this girl, like many other people in my grade. I remember wondering how someone could be that selfish and egotistical. Anyways, I later came to find out that this girl’s dad had died and she had been abandoned by a drug-addict mother. Her cousins had taken her in to live with them. This completely opened my eyes to who she was as a person and what she’d been through. She had faced things that I couldn’t imagine. My family is one of the most important things in my life, and I can’t imagine growing up without parents. I understood suddenly that all the bragging and putting down of other people was to try to find some value to put on herself. She was really desperate for someone to care about her. I didn’t go on to be best friends with her or anything, but my view and attitude towards her changed completely.
Pete Schwartz: I’ve been challenged recently with the Cal Poly administration. It seems with the corporatization of the university, the professors’ rights have been restricted and we are more like the employees of a corporation than the independent professors of yesteryear. Can we be fired if we do things that the boss doesn’t like, which include speaking our minds, which include identifying unfair practices at Cal Poly? I’ve been chronicling the issue on a website . In response to the university publicly criticizing a tenured black woman while taking steps to fire her, we recently wrote a letter to the SLO Tribune . The events have provided me ample opportunity to empathize with the president as well as with society’s oppressed. Like President Armstrong, I have been in a position of authority and responsibility over other people’s behaviors. I explain in a story about Guateca how I managed to ruin potentially the most compelling opportunity I’ve ever had to support positive global change. I felt responsible for the program I created, but failed to recognize that it wasn’t my program it was just a program of which I was a participant… just one participant. I imagine that the President feels responsible for all that happens at Cal Poly, and has responded by trying to control it rather than just hold and nurture it. I also work with a community of students dedicated to sustainability and one of them has complained loudly that her voice is not heard and that I am not giving her the priority I should. She’s critical of me and I don’t understand what she means. I’ve been advised by those around me to “fire her”. I have grown up in white male privilege, and am just beginning an awareness of what it means… and what it means to not have privilege. I am afraid. I have stepped out and spoken critically of my university. I am legally allowed to do this. Additionally, President Armstrong has invited us to identify discrimination and unfair practices. At the same time, I can look around me and see what has happened to my peers who have been labeled…. “difficult”. It’s awful. This gives me opportunity to also be empathetic to this “difficult woman” in my life. I explained to those around me that “firing her” assumes she is working for me, when in fact I see myself as working for her. I have responded to her by meeting weekly with her and two supportive people in her life that I also find safe. It has been very difficult; very rewarding; very valuable.
Olivia Caesar : Last weekend I went home to Santa Barbara to visit my mom who recently had foot surgery and spent time with my sister. My sister is extremely busy with a sports medicine program offered by her high school, her job, and her boyfriend. I was really excited to spend time with her during the weekend, but she was so busy I only saw her for 20 minutes! I was pretty disappointed that she didn’t make time for me or ask what my plans were. I usually would confront her and as an older sister, passionately explain to her how she is acting inconsiderately and needs to make more time for our family. But I took a moment and realized she’s really busy and doesn’t intend to neglect me or our bed-ridden mom. So I asked her if she needed any help organizing any lunches for her week or getting organized with other things, and she took awhile to respond (which I then had to be empathetic again) but then accepted my offer and I wrote out her lunches to make for each day this week. Hopefully it helps her out. She seemed really appreciative and I think it was nice for her to have someone looking out for her again since both other younger sister and I are out of the house now.
Megan : The other week it was my roomate’s birthday and me and my other four roomates were going to host the birthday girl’s friends over at our house after the Cal Poly Soccer game. None of our friends were invited so we didn’t have much incentive but we wanted to do something nice for our roomate. She ended up coming home from the soccer game and hanging out with her boyfriend who was in town alone the entire time while we bought food and cleaned the house. They had been arguing and were trying to make up. All of the other roomates were pretty frustrated because we were doing all the work for a party that was not necessarily ours. As the night went on we realized that It was Janie’s birthday, it was good she had time to make up with her boyfriend visiting, and we could all relate to where she was coming from and why she needed to focus on that relationship rather than set up the house.
Petra : One of my roommates constantly leaves her personal items out all over the house. I generally find it very annoying that she doesn’t always put away her things and thinks it’s ok to leave them all round the house in everyones spaces. I have intervened on this and this week I have started moving the things she leaves out on her bed when I feel like cleaning or decluttering our shared spaces. This has made me feel more productive in that instead of just feeling frustration seeing her things out everywhere and being stubborn about doing anything or sending her a nagging text, I can make an action that removes these obstacles from my life. I also feel that it is productive in that it makes her realize her impacts on our house. In turn I could apply this to the cleanliness of our home. Some of my roommates are better about cleaning up after themselves. Instead of getting frustrated about the dishes someone left in the sink or the crumbs on the counter or floor I either wipe them up (because I am the one who benefits from that) or choose to actively ignore it because I can imagine that the person who left the dishes or didn’t fully clean up was in a rush to class or work and will likely do their clean up later.
Nicholas Crawford- I’ve been a Mathematics tutor for a few years now, but my step mom recently went back to school and she is currently in a business calculus class. I have been helping her out when I can but it is hard just to tutor over the phone. When I went home last weekend she was sitting at the table doing her homework so I came over to help her. She said she had been working at her hw for 8 hours now and this was just one section. She commented on how she knew that this subject was really easy to me, but to her it was all giberish unless she worked on it for hours at a time. This really made me think about how my step mom works all day during the week, and then has to spend her entire weekend sitting there struggling with her assignment. It made really think about the sacrifices that she has to make when she could be spending time with her family or doing things she likes to do, but instead she struggles through her assignment hoping to understand.
Tom Smylie: Over the weekend, I drove home to visit my family. I love my parents very much and I don’t get to see them as often as I would have liked. For the past 8 months, I have been working and saving money to buy my own car. Within minutes of coming home, my mom had already began badgering me about how much money I have left, and whether I’ll ever have enough to support myself. Initially, I was frustrated and got extremely short with her. From my perspective, it’s my money that I earned and I should be able to spend it how I like. After taking some time to cool off, I started to understand that my mom is my biggest supporter and she is only trying to help me be successful in life. She has done so much for me, especially financially, so I understand that it is her right to make sure I am being responsible with my money.
Ryan: My roommate asked me to change out his laundry cause he had to leave the house. I forgot and he came back maybe an hour or two later. He got a little more upset with me than I expected and instead of arguing and saying I was busy or something I took a step back and realized that I was still in the wrong and if I was too busy I shouldn’t have agreed to switching his laundry. The first thing I did was apologize and say that it was my fault. Then he kept telling me over and over that I should have moved his laundry and I figured maybe he was having a not-so-good day so I continued to apologize instead of arguing over something like this. After a few more times, however, of him bringing it up and getting angry at me for forgetting to move his laundry I got frustrated and ended up telling him to “drop it because it was an honest mistake and I already said I was sorry.” There was probably a better way to say it but my empathy levels had been pressed a little bit. I think a bit more empathy on both sides would have made the situation a lot better but I am not in control of other people, only myself.
Violet: Last week my friend and I were out having lunch and her phone kept ringing. In the middle of our conversation she kept taking forever to reply and not really listening. I could tell the entire time she lost interest in focusing on our conversation to fight with her boyfriend on the phone. I started getting frustrated and instead of saying something right away I just stopped taking and became really short with her. After dropping her off she had texted me asking if everything was okay and I just ignored it being more annoyed that she waited until she was no longer with me to ask me what was wrong. I didnt like the idea of talking about things through the phone instead of talking face to face about but then I realized I was just with her and had every opportunity to tell her it bothered me yet I didnt. That experience to me made me realize that I need to understand both ends and see that I also need to fix some ways I handle things.
Matt: Last Thursday I had to pick up a good friend from middle school in Atascadero because she had been drinking. After hanging out for a bit, she began making obnoxious remarks which got on my nerves and I started argue with her about the things she was saying. I ended up leaving the room when things got worse. The following day she apologized for what she had been saying, and that she has been dealing with a lot of things lately. The heated argument could have completely avoided if I would have responded with a more constructive response, rather than just responding rudely. After we talked about everything calmly, and looked at each others perspective, we realized that just communicating can make a big difference.
Antonio Rodriguez: This past week I had 3 midterms fall on the same day, my weak was insanely busy when it came to studying. As soon as class ended I would go straight to the library. The day before my midterms I actually received a phone call from a friend that had an emergency and needed a ride to Atascadero. Although I had lots of studying to do, I was able to look at things from his perspective and realize he seriously needed my help. I stopped what I was doing in order to help him out. When I returned to the library later that night, I was able to focus much better knowing I had just helped a friend out. Showing empathy at times can give you the self motivation and confidence that you need to go on with your day.
Neelima: Over the weekend, me and my roommates were getting into little fights because we were all very uncertain about what we wanted to do with our weekend. We had many different options of whether we wanted to go out to our friends’ houses or if we wanted to stay in and just relax after our hectic midterm week. I really wanted to stay in over the weekend while my roommates wanted to go out. I was unable to understand and see from their perspective why they wanted to go out when we were all so exhausted. I realized that I was starting to get upset that they weren’t listening to what I was trying to say, but then I noticed that I wasn’t really listening to them either. I was just saying what I had to say and then shutting my brain off and not actually listening and understanding what they were saying. Once I started to listen instead of just hearing what they were trying to say, I was able to understand why they wanted to go out.
Garrett: This past week, I heard from a friend that one of our new acquaintances had been complaining that I had been mean to him. When I asked what I had said or done, I learned that what I had intended as a bit of friendly teasing about his unkempt hair had not gone over as well as I had expected. Initially, I was frustrated, since I was only finding out that he was so deeply upset by this through another friend, and this could have been avoided if he had asked me in person to stop. Soon afterward, I remembered what it was like to be a first year here, and how much I was willing to put up with in order to make friends. This realization prompted a heart-to-heart between the two of us, and at this point, we seem to be on much better terms.
Vanessa: I often like hearing both sides of the story when it comes to conflict. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and try to understand where people are coming from because it prevents unnecessary anger or emotions. This past weekend, a close friend of mine was stranded downtown by another friend (let’s refer to this person as friend #2). So it turns out my close friend saw an acquaintance that friend #2 dislikes. She went to say hi to this acquaintance and friend #2 got extremely upset. She yelled at my close friend asking her why she left her to talk to the acquaintance and started crying. Friend #2’s roommate was the designated driver that night so she called her to pick them up. When her roommate got there, she left my close friend behind and did not tell her she was leaving. I was really upset because my close friend is extremely nice and is sometimes a pushover. She’s never confrontational and works through issues in a calmly fashion. I confronted my friend, friend #2, because she has been acting extremely selfish and childish in multiple situations including the one previously mentioned. She claimed that she didn’t remember what happened because she was drunk and that she doesn’t do well with talking about her emotions. I approached this in a caring manner. I explained more of the different situations that I did not agree with and she said she was stressed out about her living situation. I know all of her roommates and am really confused as to what she was stressed about. She kept playing the victim and I told her that if she needed someone to talk to that I would be there for her but that her emotions did not justify her actions. There is probably more to the story that she isn’t telling me so I just dropped it. I will try to continue to empathize and just avoid her because I’d rather not deal with the outbursts. I told her she should really talk to someone if her emotions are affecting her to this extent.
Maddi: This year at school I don’t have a car so I ride my bike pretty much everywhere I need to go. I always ride in the bike lane but sometimes have to ride in the driving lanes when there are no other choices. On Friday when I was biking to a friend’s house I was going straight at the light on Santa Rosa and Higuera but a car was making a right. Since I was biking they had to wait for me to enter the right-hand turn lane and they honked at me and were clearly really frustrated that I was biking through and preventing them from making the light. A man in a different car pulled up next to me at the next light and said that the car almost hit me. I was pretty surprised at how frustrated this person was just by me biking according to my own biker rights. I then tried to empathize with the person and realized that I usually HATE bikers when I am the driver. It showed me how hypocritical I can potentially be. I feeling toward the same issue has changed completely dependent on wether I am the driver or the biker. From now on, I will try to keep in mind driver’s perspective while biking and biker perspective while driving.
I live with my boyfriend and we have very opposite schedules. I wanted to have some friends over for drinks and pizza later in the week. My boyfriend agreed we should, so we planned the event. Thursday night after he got home from work, I reminded him of the event and he was upset I never told him about it. I told him we had this whole conversation just two days ago. He was grumpy and I knew it would be best for me to just meet my friends elsewhere the next night. I was pretty upset because I had to get a hold of everyone and change plans. After doing so, I went out and apologized to my boyfriend because I knew he had been working 16hour days and wouldn’t remember plans that I made for us days in advanced. He was totally fine if I had everyone still come over to the house, but I knew he needed quiet time and just time to relax. I was still able to go out and have a nice girls night. Looking at both sides of the situation really helps you connect with others.
until I reached my breaking point. I got up in a huff and left I believe catching the attention of the young ladies. I believe this was a poor decision on my part. They had just as much right to be in that space as I and even if they were disturbing me I do not have to cheapen myself by reacting in a negative way.
: On Friday, my friend has asked me to work for her catering company at 4:00pm because they needed people. I called my other job (I was scheduled 4:00-11:00pm), and asked if I could change to the morning shift, and they told me it would be no problem and to show up the next day at 10:30 am and that I could get off at 3:00pm. When I showed up to work at 10:30am, there was already another co-worker there working the same shift, and he told me that I should just go home. I had told him that the manager had told me to cover the shift he was doing, but he said that the manager had said the same thing to him. I disagreed with him because I had talked to the manager more recently. I agreed to go home however because I am somewhat new to the company and feel as if I have less of a say. I was pretty annoyed because I had to cancel other plans to do this, and left without actually trying to figure out things. If I had taken a step back, and thought about why he thought the manager had told him to work then, we could have maybe talked things through and I could have worked my scheduled shift. I later found out from my manager and coworker that my manager had told him to take the later shift instead, but he was drunk when had called him.
Last week, I had 3 midterms, but one of my co-workers needed her shift covered desperately.. she had a test the next day and she had a friend visiting from out of state. As bitter as I was for sacrificing my own study time, I decided to help a sista out and cover for her. I decided that since my midterm was another day away, I could sacrifice a few hours of study time to help her have a few extra hours with her friend. It turned out to be a decent outcome since I was able to get great tips.
Mary D.: To preface, I am known to my friends and family as being extremely objective when I am in conflicts with others. I try my hardest to look at both sides and see where I have come up short. I am human, however, especially when it comes to my long term boyfriend. My boyfriend and I are long distance because he decided to take a promotion in another city. When he first proposed it to me, we had been struggling with some other issues and I felt that things wouldn’t work out long distance unless he made some changes in his attitude towards our relationship. He decided it was worth it and we worked hard to stay together despite the distance. After spending the summer together, the distance has been especially hard. I struggled quite a bit when he first moved and realized what I needed to do while in SLO to keep myself happy and healthy. This involves spending time with my friends and family that are here, as well as concentrating on my school work. This has made getting in contact with me difficult. As such, my boyfriend called me last week and said that he needed way more than I was giving otherwise it wouldn’t work. From my perspective, he was blindsiding me with an ultimatum and he was exaggerating our situation. We hadn’t talked extensively the day before because I had been at a bachelorette wine tasting party and it would have been rude for me to sit in the corner for 45 minutes talking on the phone. However, I had to step back and realize that while his requests may have seem unreasonable from a logical standpoint, he was speaking directly from the heart. It isn’t easy for him to do this, so I had to respect his honestly and vulnerability. We agreed that while some days we might be unavailable for extensive conversations, we will make up for it by planning a longer conversation for a later time via Skype or Facetime to allow for more intimacy.
Amber : I was at a party this weekend and when I showed up most people were pretty intoxicated. There was a guy I had met before, but didn’t know too well who was acting pretty sleazy toward me. I tried avoiding him for the rest of the night and everyone there agreed he was just generally being a jerk. Eventually I noticed that he was outside alone, vomiting. He looked miserable and his ‘friends’ were no where to be found. Although I’d never been in his position before, I felt that I empathized with him and realized that he himself probably didn’t even know how he was behaving that night and was barely coherent of what was going on. I stayed with him for a while and tried to help him before his friends took him home.
Edward: I recently got in a fight with a friend. I had been talking to a girl for a while, and he went and kissed the girl. I was really upset and didn’t talk to him for two – three weeks. After this class I thought about how he might have liked this girl too, and that I was only thinking about my self. After realizing that he had a crush on her too, but just didn’t tell me because he thought it would be weird. I apologized to him and it put me in a place where we are back on talking terms.
Loren: My roommate and I have been getting into small arguments lately. I currently don’t have a car so going to the grocery store is hard. I got mad at her because she just goes whenever she wants and never tells me. This is frustrating because I have no food and she doesn’t think to tell me. I realized that she has a busy schedule too and have other things to worry about. I should be the one letting her know that I need a ride.
Haley: My housemate strung up a conversation with me in our kitchen this morning after I had just woken up early after a beautiful night’s sleep and completed a yoga session. Needless to say, I was in a wonderful mood at the start of our convo. He was frustrated that our house wasn’t as much of a high-functioning community atmosphere as he would enjoy. He complained that the “family dinners” we all partake in, in which we pick a day to cook for everyone else and later split the cost of ingredients between us, wasn’t being properly reciprocated between all of our family. Names of specific housemates were named and I immediately became defensive and harsh. I argued that people need internal motivation to be a member of a more community-like atmosphere and he can’t force that on anyone. I left the discussion and felt immediate regret after empathizing with my friend. I realized his frustration didn’t come from an unattainable desire but rather from a sense of fairness. The housemates who had not cooked a meal for us had eaten our meals every night with nothing to show in return(except their friendship and love, but that’s not the issue here :)). Anyways, I completely see where he is coming from and look forward to coming up with a plan to make people’s desires met.
Ted: This past weekend I was planning on going with my roommate back to his hometown to help out with his family’s harvest on their farm. He was originally going to drive but texted me two hours before we left asking if I could drive instead. His car hadn’t been re-registered yet, his headlight had just gone out, and he had a leak in his radiator to top it all off. At first I was shocked that something so unexpected could happen, then I got irritated because I would have to drive an approximately 600 mile trip with the gas and wear and tear associated with it. After thinking about the situation for a few minutes and attempting to see where he was coming from in this situation, I realized I should step up and say I’d be ok with driving my car. Although I was going to tag along with him this weekend, this wasn’t a leisurely trip for him but actual hard work that he wasn’t looking forward to. His parents had asked for his help and he couldn’t say no so he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. In the end I’m glad I ended up driving us up because we still had a great time and he even ended up covering my gas.
Mitsuyoshi: I had my fiance visiting me this weekend and we had a pretty packed list of things to do while she was here. I am not one to really pack things on a schedule and rush from place to place but that’s what it felt like we were doing sometimes. I found myself getting irritated with our running around and the stress that it was creating (there was a lot of driving involved) but I tried to put myself in my fiance’s shoes. She hasn’t seen some of these people we were visiting in a long time and really wanted to spend a little time with them and connect. She also was trying to make the most of her time with me and all this sightseeing and such was a way to do that. After reflecting on that I could put myself in a better mindset to deal with the situation and see it in a new light. It’s a funny thing how circumstances can look different if seen with a little empathy. Definitely something to continually think on and practice each day.
Taylor: I went over to see my recent ex-girlfriend and her dog after about 2 months of being apart. We ended up talking about our relationship as it would go and we couldn’t really get anywhere as far as understanding where the other person had felt wronged or agree over which events had more significance vs. others. Usually this would happen as a result of just so many things cultivating to one emotion which was difficult to break down. I did this exercise and saw things from her point of view. It wasn’t too successful. I suppose this is where one would resort to the ‘irreconcilable differences’ justification 😛
Kat: I was supposed to go to Santa Barbara with a friend this Saturday, and I was really excited, but she bailed out last night. She and I haven’t been friends for long, but we get along well and quickly become closed friends. I was disappointed and started to blame her for calling off at the last minute. But then I tarted to ask her why and if everything was going well. She used school as an excuse, but I remember how it was like in first year at Cal Poly — overload of excitement that it’s overwhelmed. She got accepted to UCI this Fall, and the quarter system is killing her. We ended up talking on the phone for almost an hour. At the end she thanked me for listening and understanding her situation. If I didn’t have to go through what she is going through, I wouldn’t have known how to react and empathize with her.
Beth: Currently, travel applications are out for members to join the Engineers Without Borders mid-implementation assessment trip to India this December. There are many committed, hard-working members applying to go on this trip (at least 10!!!). This is great but also stressful because there are only 4 spots open. Unfortunately, as project manager of the team, I am in charge of telling members whether or not they made the cut. I hate disappointing people and I dread this time of the year. Last year, some people took the decisions to heart and were very upset for weeks. I want to go about this in the nicest way possible but I am struggling a bit. I am trying to put myself in their shoes and think about how I would want someone to reject me but I feel like there’s no good way. Maybe if I lacked empathy this situation would be easier…food for thought.
Pete: Today a student asked me how to do something having to do with formatting on a computer. I said he would be able to figure it out and then I observed that he was mad. He agreed that he was mad because he didn’t think it was so simple and he found my response to be dismissive. Then I remembered what it’s like when I feel overwhelmed and/or abandoned, and recognized that it’s a sad, helpless feeling that can I can also get angry about. I shared this thought with him, but also asked him to consider if he would need to do these kinds of things in the real world. I also suggested resources where he could get what he needed. He said he appreciated the “hands off” way I run the class, and we both expressed gratitude for the others’ participation. I couldn’t have done that a decade ago.
David : On sunday morning while surfing, I was cut off (when someone drops in on a wave that they clearly didn’t have priority on since someone else [me] was clearly in position and was already on it) on a wave that I had been waiting on. I calmly asked the person who felt that they could just take any wave they please, despite priority or respect of others, what that was all about. He gave a quick inaudible response that I asked him to repeat but instead he just ignored me. I asked again and he started to get irritated and said to just drop it. I said that it’s not cool to cut the priority line and that it’s not appreciated here and he started to raise his tone about how he already heard what I had to say. I noticed that this older “adult” was starting to get his panties in a bunch, so I just replied that he should just make sure to not let that happen again because everyone here is trying to have fun and not have his negative energy trying to take every wave that comes in despite giving others a chance. I remained calm the whole time because I know that there must be an underlying reason as to why this “man” seems to be fast to get angry. He could have been having a bad day or for all I know, he just can’t handle “confrontation” and deal with the fact that he might be in the wrong. But all ended well seeing that he kept his distance after I spoke my mind and I continued to have a great session and went about my jolly day!
Cameron: Last night my roommate called me for a ride at 1:30 am when I was sleeping. My just-having-been-waken-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-proto-ego was immediately annoyed yet, I quickly realized, empathically, that this is an opportunity to help him from a crappy situation that I would appreciate if I were in his shoes. I was happy I was able to help him.
Quinn: My boss had been gone for a couple of weeks on vacation and when he came back I presented him with a few different things that had come up while he was gone. He told me he would get to them and a week later still hadn’t. I was pretty frustrated, but then thought about how I would feel coming back from a vacation and being kind of ambushed with all of these things that had happened while I was gone. He has several other businesses as well and I’m sure he had things to do for those, too. I did check in with him about it, and mentioned that I was sure it wasn’t fun to come back from a trip to people just waiting to give him all kinds of things to deal with. He agreed, and finished everything by the end of that day.
Sara N: This weekend I was staying over at my old roommates’ house. That Saturday night it was chore of one of the roommates to clean the kitchen. However, he would not be home from work until late that night. I had empathy for him because I knew what it was like to have to clean the huge kitchen alone and decided to start cleaning it for him before he arrived. I was happy to be able to help out my friend.
Kelsey: Yesterday my coworker asked if I would trade shifts this week because she needs time to study for a really important midterm. Her shift is normally on Thursday night while mine is on Tuesday. Typically I would say no because I prefer working Tuesdays and have early morning class on Friday that is tough to get up for after a long work shift the night before. But I knew how important her midterm is to her, and can relate from being in the same situations in other quarters, so I told her I would trade shifts just to help her out. I had empathy for her because her schedule was going to impact her success in school, rather than her hard work, and I knew that wasn’t fair for anyone. I’m glad I was able to trade shifts and allow her to focus on her classes rather than stress about when she could study.
Tom: I was collecting money from my friend group to buy libations for a halloween party we’ve been planning for weeks. Even though I reminded my friends multiple times, one of my friends claimed his paycheck was coming the day after I went to buy the supplies. I have been short on money before, but I was incredibly frustrated my friend didn’t contact me before the day of the party. Even though I wanted to call him out for being lazy and mismanaging his money, I chose to let it go and enjoy ourselves at the celebration.
Frankie L: Ever since two of my good friends got together a few months back and had on/off drama, I’ve been letting their relationship with each other affect my friendship with each of them, since I didn’t really approve of the two. I’ve become extremely distant with one of them and now get unnecessarily irritated way too often with the other. I realize that their relationship with each other shouldn’t concern me too much, and that I should have been a better friend to both to be there for both of them. At the same time, I realize that the situation itself was a weird one, and that the other two were at fault as well for distancing themselves. In general, I’ve been learning to better empathize with the people I care about in my life, so as to maintain our bonds.
Elliott S: I am a potter and I love working with ceramics. One year ago, one of my roommates broke one of my favorite coffee mugs I had made. At the time, I was able to brush it off and I realized that accidents happen. Shortly after she moved out. The same roommate has just moved back nearly a year later, and…What do they do a week after they move back in? Break my damn favorite plate that I made. Urrrgh Upon first reaction, I was so mad I wanted to throw the broken pieces at her..gently. Within the matter of seconds I was able to process this and realized that my reaction was irrational and I simply responded: It’s ok I break things too sometimes, just please try to be more careful with my ceramics next time
Elisha Pollock : I heard through a mutual friend about a life decision our other friend had made. This decision, in my opinion, was not a good one and I knew he shared my same view previously. I was kind of annoyed and even mad at him for being so dumb. I love my friend and I didn’t want to feel that way about him so I called him and told him my opinion. He cared enough to talk it through with me and I was able to understand where he was coming from and have empathy for his situation.
Taylor Hoover: My girlfriend and I agreed to watch my friends dog over the weekend. We live on 8 acres in Santa Margarita and have 3 dogs already, so we didn’t think it would be a problem. Within 15 minutes of the dog being at my house on friday night, the dog ran away and was gone for 4 hours. Having lost my dog many times before, I wasn’t concerned. I knew the dog would come back eventually. The dog was large enough and fast enough to be on its own. However, my girlfriend was freaking out. I wanted to tell her what I was feeling, but I already knew how she was feeling, and anything I wanted to say, would have just made things worse for her. Knowing that there was no chance of finding the dog amongst the thousands of acres of private ranch land (that we had no access to), I decided to continue to look for her for the remaining hour of our search to make her feel better. The dog eventually returned an hour after we stopped looking.
Nicole Petersen : Last week in my cell biology lab, we had an online quiz that was due the day before lab. My lab partner tried to complete this online quiz while she was on campus the day that it was due; however, mustang wireless was being glitchy and she wasn’t able to get onto polylearn to complete it. She ended up skipping her class in order to go home and connect to a stable internet source so that she complete the quiz. However, by the time she made it home to work on the quiz, it had already passed the time that the it was due and she ended up getting a zero on it. She tried talking to the teacher about the reason why she didn’t take the quiz but our professor didn’t care and wasn’t willing to give her any points for it. When I heard about my lab partner’s story, I was really surprised at our teacher’s response since I feel like most Cal Poly teachers know about how unreliable mustang wireless is. This is a common conflict that occurs between teachers and students on campus and I am able to understand and have empathy for both sides of this disagreement.
Jeremiah Schoenfeldt :
Something that has become overtly apparent to me over the last few years is my affinity to develop “road rage” in traffic situations, especially when I’m running late to class and people are driving slow, not signaling, or not getting over to the right on the freeway in order to let me pass. The most ignored street sign in human history has to be the “Slower Traffic Keep Right” sign that is littered all over the side of freeways throughout the United States. I became aware of my problem with “road rage” just recently, as I was driving through town with my daughter in the passenger seat. I’ve made it a habit to talk to neighboring cars that aren’t driving the way I want them to, as if they were able to hear my criticism and make the proper adjustment. I never would cuss, mind you, but I definitely would sprinkle in a “Look at this idiot.”, or “What do you think you’re doing?!”, when a car would cut me off or drive excessively slow in the fast lane. This day in particular, a person in front of me at the red light didn’t go once the light turned green, and before I could say anything my daughter of 11 years old chimed in with a “The gas is on the right buddy!”. Now my first reaction was that of a good chuckle. “Good one, Mylah”, I thought to myself. The more I thought about this the more I realized that she was mimicking something I had said before. How did she even know that the gas is on the right? She’s 11. This has made me come to the conclusion that I will now have more empathy for those that I share the road with. Maybe they were recently in a care wreck and they are driving slow for the safety of everyone around them. Or maybe they’re just having a bad day and made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes and has bad days. Even I have left my blinker on for miles on the freeway and been “that guy” from time to time. From now on I will attempt to have more empathy for my fellow drivers on the road, if only to keep my daughters future “road rage” under control.