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I don't have a problem, so you can't have one

Over and over again the same attitude comes up, and I am getting sick of it.

People talk about the problems they are having, the responses always boil down to "I don't have a problem, you can't have one."

Coping with ADHD: Somebody will tell you that there is no such thing.  They haven't encountered it in there lives so it cannot exist.  You are doing something wrong.

Frustrated by Word screwing up documents:  "Never happended to me, never happened to anybody.  It's all your own fault."

Difficulty finding a job: "I have a job.  There must be a job available for everybody."

Why do people find it so hard to have any empathy for their fellow human beings?  I get the impression that the problem is generally worse with technical types.

Ged Byrne
Friday, July 02, 2004

No one finds it hard. Most just do not care. Who are you anyway?


Friday, July 02, 2004


Ok, Ged, I'll bite:

Programmer to Tester "That doesn't happen on MY MACHINE ..."

Of course, it's because that programmer hard-coded:

"IMPORT C:\FOO\BAR\BLAH.DLL" into his source, and the tester doesn't have BLAH.DLL on his machine, so the program crashes on start-up.  The programmer does have BLAH.DLL on his machine.

How many times have I see that?  Lots and lots and lots and lots.

I think you're on to something, and I could come up with some examples.  A lot of it seems to be part of american culture - when we ask "How are you?" we expect to hear "Fine."  If the person is really having a bad day, we don't really want to here it.

hmm.

there's an insight swimming around somewhere here ...

Matt H.
Friday, July 02, 2004

I'll bight too:

At the extreme end of the spectrum I remember reading an article that posited that many people that worked in technical fields had slight leanings towards Apergian behaviours that included reduced empathic skills.  Or maybe it's just today's world where people have less experiene of large extended families and so have lost the skills they should have to care for others around them - I remember Kurt Vonnegut writing about the fact that people were selfish because they were lonley and he invented a huge extended family system in his novel Slapstick to overcome it.

Lets face it, people don't want to acknowledge your problem cause they don't want extra work to help you solve it.

anonymouse
Friday, July 02, 2004

What is "Apergian behaviours"?  Oddly enough, Google didn't help.

Bill Rushmore
Friday, July 02, 2004

In at least some of the people that I have observed this behavior in (ok, I'll admit myself at times too, but I try to fight it), it is a manifestation of pride and insecurity.  If I deny that your disadvantage exists (whether it be from disease, discrimination, roll of the job dice), I can than attribute my relative success to you entirely based on my abilities relative to yours, rather than admitting that you have a tougher row to hoe.  And by denying your disadvantage I am making sure you are aware of my superiority as well.

If you can truly be comfortable with your own abilities and it doesn't matter whether someone else is better or worse than you, AND you are aware that everyone's situation is different and contains factors that you know nothing about, then it is easier to give someone the benefit of the doubt and just help.

A motto I try to abide by is, don't attribute to malicousness what can be attributed to incompetence, and don't attribute to incompetence what can be attributed to a misunderstanding.

madking
Friday, July 02, 2004

Some of what you point out is a lack of empathy. But  there's an old saying "When you point your finger at someone else, your other three fingers are pointing back at yourself". 

It Word is constantly crashing for you, maybe there is something wrong with your installation or the way you're trying to use it. If you act out of control because of ADHD, maybe you need to get help instead of telling other people to deal with your malady. And so it goes.

I'm not being unsympathic, I'm just saying that if you have a problem, sometimes (not always but sometimes) you need to fix the problem instead of just complaining about it. 

Anony Coward
Friday, July 02, 2004

Madking,

I think you've hit on something there.  The response 'loser...' is so much easier than 'there but for the grace of God...'

Ged Byrne
Friday, July 02, 2004

Anony,

Maybe you right.  Perhaps the real problem is that we are trying to use the text posted on boards like this as a substitute for a real life with real friends.  We try to share with the other posters our feelings and experiences as we would in real life contact, and that is the mistake.

Ged Byrne
Friday, July 02, 2004

>What is "Apergian behaviours"? 
>Oddly enough, Google didn't help.

I think the phrase you are struggling for is:

"Asperger's Syndrome"

http://users.wpi.edu/~trek/aspergers.html

Matt H.
Friday, July 02, 2004

Bill,

I believe he was referring to "Asperger's Syndrome," though I'm not even sure if "Aspergian" would be a word. ;)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism#Asperger.27s_and_Kanner.27s_syndrome

Dignified
Friday, July 02, 2004

I must be typing in Jello.  What Matt said.

Dignified
Friday, July 02, 2004

>I think you've hit on something there. 
>The response 'loser...' is so much
>easier than 'there but for the grace of God...'

And there's that insight I was struggling for.  (Yes, it's a "duh", but still ...)
 

That was pretty cool.  Thanks.

Matt H.
Friday, July 02, 2004

And I'll be damned, on the linked Asperger's Syndrome entry, right there, "Aspergian."  OK, no more posting for me.

Dignified
Friday, July 02, 2004

Well because people with "Asperger's Syndrome" can have problem with Empathy?

MyNameIsSecret();
Friday, July 02, 2004

I know a lot of people with Asperger's, and most do not take the attitude bemoaned by the OP. Rather the opposite.

I think it has to do with favouring the explanation that is most flattering to oneself.

It's easy to become hardworking without doing any work. All you have to do is find someone who's struggling to get stuff done, and call them lazy!!!

Also, vigorously discourage them from believing in themselves enough to get treatment. Because if they do, all that effort they were putting forth will suddenly start to get results, and not only will you be eating their dust, but they will figure out that you aren't nearly as hardworking as you said you were.

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, July 02, 2004

"A motto I try to abide by is, don't attribute to malicousness what can be attributed to incompetence, and don't attribute to incompetence what can be attributed to a misunderstanding"

IME, most of us fail terribly at this.

It's a vicious circle. We expect others to think the worst of our actions/motives, and so we do the same. This ends up conditioning our behaviour, for the worse, naturally.

The worst part is when we enter the "I don't give a damn" stage, because "regardless of what I do, they'll always think I've got something up my sleeve". It takes some effort to get out of this one and regain your balance back.

Paulo Caetano
Friday, July 02, 2004

Ged,

while what you are saying does ring a bell, you should not cast your net too wide. In your examples you take two cases that are vaguely specified instances of disputed syndromes that are above all frequently misdiagnosed. As such it is only natural that some scepsis arises. That this scepsis is expressed in rather blunt way might be the combination of the technical orientation of the participants, combined with the natural bluntness of the aninymous online setting.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, July 02, 2004

+++If you act out of control because of ADHD, maybe you need to get help instead of telling other people to deal with your malady. And so it goes.+++


Just for the record, I wasn't asking anybody to deal with this problem, I was asking if anyone else HAD this problem and had any anecdotes that might be helpful.

Just for the record.

Instead I got lambasted for being a moron with discipline issues.

But I think what some people have said here is exactly right.  Human beings don't know how to empathize with each other.  I don't think technical people are any worse at it, I think that they're just not as good at faking it as lots of other people seem to be.

"Oh that's too bad, I'm sorry to hear that." while they're actually thinking "What a loser, I don't have these problems.  I guess I'm doing something right that they're not."

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Friday, July 02, 2004

"It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes strength to be gentle and kind

It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes guts to be gentle and kind"

"I Know It's Over" - The Smiths

Lyrics by Morrissey

Gen'xer
Friday, July 02, 2004

"If I deny that your disadvantage exists (whether it be from disease, discrimination, roll of the job dice), I can than attribute my relative success to you entirely based on my abilities relative to yours, rather than admitting that you have a tougher row to hoe."

There is a flip side to this, though, that needs to be factored into the equation. Sometimes people have endured tremendous hardships, and overcome many obstacles, but you wouldn't know it because they are very private about it and don't use it to personal advantage (I'm not saying, whatsoever, that monkey is using this to a personal advantage - obviously his name isn't really monkey, and none of us can "cut him slack" in his current job). To these people it can be incredibly irritating to hear someone moaning about some triviality, attempting to use it to earn a break or receive special consideration. The simple fact is that a lot of people air their petty hardships under the thin hope that it'll dull criticism the next time they slack off, etc.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, July 02, 2004

There are two factors at work. First, as technical people, we are accustomed to seeing problems reported by others resolve to them not knowing the things we do. The Word example fits in this category. Thus, there is a legitimate response that reported problems probably arise from the other person's incompetence.

Second, and with more relevance to the concerns about unemployment, many people in this field are younger than in other fields, and thus lack experience of the hardships that strike most people at various points. People who have experienced their own hardships find it easier to emphasise with others. This might be getting the sack unexpectedly, having a bad car crash or losing money in bad investments.

tree
Friday, July 02, 2004

Sir,

Your right, as usual.  I used so a varied range because I didn't want it to fall into a discussion of Word or ADHD or Jobs.  It was the attitude that just keeps being displayed that I wanted to highlight.


Dennis,

I know exactly what you are talking about.  Sometimes, however, it is too easy to see your own hardships as tremendous and the hardships of others as being trivial.

Ged Byrne
Friday, July 02, 2004

"Sometimes people have endured tremendous hardships, and overcome many obstacles, but you wouldn't know it because they are very private about it and don't use it to personal advantage ..."

I think there's a difference between comisserating and whining.  The family friends that I've had who went through the great depression all have some amazing tales. 

One interesting thing is the take they had on social welfare systems.  Typically, the response is something like:

"I've never asked for nothing in my entire life, except for the chance to earn my own living."

-- That from the guy who started a Chysler in 1930 making something like $5/day ... (I can't remember the exact amount.  It was a really cool story - he was making something like $0.69 per day at a supplier, then came to Chrysler. His boss said something like "You see that line of people around the block?  That's the line to get this ONE JOB.  If you don't like it, you can leave, we'll find another ...)

Matt H.
Friday, July 02, 2004

Actually if you don't have the problem yourself but feel for someone who does it's "sympathy" not empathy.  Sympathy too is a rare thing and this is a specific case of the general principle that people find it difficult to believe that other people really have different thoughts and feelings from them.

The funny thing is that just about everyone, if asked, would say that he understands that other people have different experiences, thoughts feelings, likes and dislikes, but when it comes down to forming opinions of others, they clearly forget this principle.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, July 02, 2004

And keep in mind that there's obviously a troll in this forum who posts under several pseudonyms, usually sarcastically, usually ignored, but still trying to stir up trouble.

Tom H
Friday, July 02, 2004

MyNameIsSecret(),

It's not that people with "Asperger's Syndrome" can have problem with Empathy at all, quite the reverse.  The communication problems between "neurotypicals" and those with an ASD (including Asperger's) is TWO WAY.

My son is diagnosed with Asperger's, and is extremely loving and caring.  I realise that you were careful enough to say "can" have difficulties with empathy, but it is nonetheless perpetuating an unfortunate (and untrue) belief, however commonly held.

It takes 2 to talk, a failure to understand and communicate is actually a failure on both sides.

David B. Wildgoose
Friday, July 02, 2004

People take credit for their successes and blame their failures on the world.

Conversely, most people blame OTHER people's failures on THOSE people, but credit the WORLD with those people's successes.

It's just an egocentric kinda' thing.

Mr. Analogy
Friday, July 02, 2004

"Verbal Judo", the empathy manual...

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion

by George J., Ph.D. Thompson, Jerry B. Jenkins

http://verbal-judo.com/

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0688137865/103-0299652-9391873?v=glance

full name (required)
Friday, July 02, 2004

Undelrying this behavior is a psychological phenomenon known as the "fundamental attribution error" or "actor-observer bias". Basically it says that people tend to interpret the causes things differently depending on whether it happens to them or to someone else.

If something good happens to a person, he tends to believe it's because of something intrinsic to him -- i.e., he deserved it. If something bad happens, he tends to believe it's circumstantial, bad luck, etc.

The analysis reverses when a person observes someone else. If something good happens to someone else, it's because he got lucky, etc. If something bad happens, it's because of his innate problems.

I'm oversimplifying and hand-waving a bit with my definitions here, but there's well-established empirical evidence that people tend to think this way.

John C.
Friday, July 02, 2004

Over and over again the same attitude comes up, and I am getting sick of it.

People talk about the problems they are having "I have this problem but it is not my fault, everyone else must have the same problem."

Coping with ADHD: Somebody will tell you that it is an actual disease / mental disorder. It must exist because a group of physcologists / pharmacists say so.  It is not your fault you can't concentrate.

Frustrated by Word screwing up documents:  "Always happens to me, heard lots of stories from everyone else. Word is full of bugs, never my own fault."

Difficulty finding a job: "I don't have a job.  Where all the jobs. Why can't I get a job."

Two sides to every story
Friday, July 02, 2004

You're right.  Sometimes it's somebody's own fault.  Sometimes it's not.

Are you going to next tell us that water is wet, and the sky blue?  Do you have anything meaningful to contribute?

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Friday, July 02, 2004

"Two sides to every story"

IMHO, that should be "Three sides to every story" - mine, yours, and the truth.

Paulo Caetano
Friday, July 02, 2004

Just like it's possible that I may have problem and it could be specific to me or my vision, it could be specific to you that you can't have one because of your vision.

Everybody can see a silent gunshot except blinds.

Social Programmer.
Friday, July 02, 2004


"Why do people find it so hard to have any empathy for their fellow human beings?"

Simple. Most people are monumental assholes. It's that easy to explain. Forget the pop psychology and all that other crap. The bottom line is that people are just a bunch of arrogant, selfish pricks.

Huh?
Friday, July 02, 2004

People don't listen. We choose and interpret facts to match our "reality". Whatever else doesn't fit in our mental picture is discarded as "can't be that way".

Children are the best listeners - maybe just because they have so much to learn?

Dino
Friday, July 02, 2004

It's pretty simple, according to my one basic psych class :)

A person's problems are caused by external forces.

Other peoples' problems are caused by internal defects.

So other people having problems are because o some internal defect or issue. This is confirmed by my lack of such problems. And if I did have them, they wouldn't be my fault, anyway.

DaveF
Friday, July 02, 2004

How many software engineers does it take to replace a light bulb?
They never will, the lights are on here, could not replicate the problem, issue closed.

Wisom of the ages
Friday, July 02, 2004

the flipside to this discussion is the emotional energy that nincompoops can suck out of you if you let their problems become something for *you* to anguish over.

take the case above, of a programmer saying "it doesn't do that on my machine."

for every case like that, where the programmer screwed up with a hardcoded filename and refuses to deal with it, we might find hundreds of cases where the tester has messed up and doesn't have the competence to find his own mistakes.  should the programmer waste three quarters of his time and energy carrying that schmuck, or just dismiss him?

i don't mean to relate this to asberger's, add, and every single thing mentioned above but the general issue of being dismissive of other people's problems can be a *survival* tactic in our world where a small portion *carry* the rest, and perhaps in western democracies in particular, where even grossly stupid people get to vote, and have fancy things, and voice their opinions loudly.

wanker
Saturday, July 03, 2004

I spend a lot of effort trying to make my systems idiot-proof, but I must not be very good at it.  I'm constantly surprised by the ways our testers and operations staff find to mess up something.  I'll bet I spend half of every year tracking down something that sounds like a bug, but turned out to be a database configuration goof, or somebody skipped a step written in ALL CAPS in 16 point font on a two page installation guide.  Then there's the annual turnover rate, which gets so high that any "educational" fix to a problem is wasted, and the problem returns with every new hire, who often can't be bothered to even read the manuals for the tools they're given.

(Please don't suggest automated install programs.  We do that.  But when you're coordinating an installation across N machines and M different technologies, it can get more complicated than a desktop application installation program, with manual steps in management consoles, and things like that.  Plus, in our bureaucracy, only certain people are allowed to do certain steps.  Only a DBA can do DDL.  Other guys must install application servers.  You might know the story.)

Buhbb
Saturday, July 03, 2004

Re ADHD: "Oh that's too bad, I'm sorry to hear that." while they're actually thinking "What a loser, I don't have these problems.  I guess I'm doing something right that they're not."

Actually, I'm thinking "Gee, I have exactly that problem, but I manage to survive.  Many of my friends have that problem, and they manage to deal with it just fine.  Why does this guy think he's super-special?  Does he think life is a breeze for everybody but him?"

I feel like I'm running a marathon and some guy keeps telling me he has some special disease that makes his legs get tired after only about 20 miles.  Oh, gee, really, you must be really special...

ahem
Monday, July 05, 2004

There are actually two possible ways of discounting the problems of others:

- I don't have that problem. I've never heard of anyone else having that problem. So you can't have that problem.

- I do have that problem. Everyone I know has that problem. Your problem can't be worse than anyone else's. So you can't have that problem.

Briefly, your problems don't count because:

- nobody else has that problem; or
- everybody else has that problem.

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, July 05, 2004

"...everybody else has that problem."

If everybody has the same problem, shouldn't we be looking for a solution to that problem rather than suffering in silence?

It is said that ADHD was once an evolutionary advantage.  It is only in an industrialised society that the ability to sit still for hours on end became essential.  In past centuries restless energy was a positive trait.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADHD#Positive_aspects

This may be controversial, but the question remains.  How many of the problems we bare stoically each day have a social cause?

Masturbater complains that the majority of people are carried. 

Let there be a population of people.  Let the majority of these peoble live by an agreed lifestyle with difficulty.  Let a few live this lifestyle with ease.

Distribute status and wealth based on success.  The few who live life with ease will have the greatest success, because they carry less burden than the majority.

Have decisions made by those with the most wealth and status.  The few for whom the lifestyle is easy will make decisions that favour the status quo.

The lifestyle become more and more burdensome for the majority, while bcome easier and easier for the few.

Let the majority suffer in stoic silence.

Ged Byrne
Monday, July 05, 2004

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