Quizzes, stories and compassion - oh my!

Ahh, internet surveys. Apparently people love a quiz. What’s not to love:  they’re fun, quick, silly and people like to be validated.

Female student with a laptop cheering in success

Yeah, I’m like Jennifer Anniston!  Perfect, I should travel to Bali!  Sweet, my lifestyle is just like those who live in Portland!

Ok, so I made these up. Kind of. You get the point and you know what I’m talking about it  - unless you don’t log in to social media. Ever.

There are very few things that ruffle my feathers these days, unless it has to do with people putting others down, or some unjust systems issue that just doesn’t make sense to me.

One thing that got under my skin recently was a survey going viral called, “How much do you hate people?”

The results were supposed to show you how much of a “people hater” you are. Of course it doesn’t seem like my kind of quiz to begin with because, well, frankly I don’t think of myself as hating anyone. (In fact, I took it and my results showed “people lover,” so we can all rest assured that I am not a hater in a profession that requires compassion and empathy. :)  But I digress…

I didn’t click on the quiz the first few times I saw it come up on my Facebook feed as I was turned off by the name alone, although after seeing multiple people with similar interests post it, my curiosity was piqued.  Soooo I clicked. I know better.

You know what happened?  While it takes a lot for my blood to boil as I have learned to stay peaceful in what some would consider alarming situations, I felt myself becoming a bit irritated at this quiz! Yes, I know that it is supposed to be taken in jest and that it is supposed to be funny. Believe me, I worked in psych research for years and I do realize that these are not scientifically vetted studies and they are not exactly “valid and reliable.” :) Yup, I get it.

The truth is that there was only 1 out of 65 that I could choose as “hating,” and even that one was a stretch. Hate is such a strong word.

If you’re curious about which one I chose, the gist was about long lines at a public restroom. I know, for those of you who know me well, this is funny. And I chose it not because of having to stand in line with people, but maybe because sometimes, well, when you gotta go, you gotta go! And even then I figure that I was placed in line for a reason (e.g., maybe to practice patience) and placed next to certain people in line for a reason and to hear the conversations around me for a reason. (There are no coincidences.)

Ok, so what about the quiz was starting to get to me?  It’s because I had a possible explanation for everything that people do.

For example, one of the 65 statements to choose from was “when someone bumps into you.” I don’t “hate” that because you never know someone’s situation. I have an uncle who has multiple sclerosis who has been frequently cursed at by strangers and mistaken for being drunk while walking.

Some of the other questions on the “quiz” had to do with becoming annoyed with petty things like people walking too slowly in front of them and people walking up the stairs too slowly. 

Seriously? Have you ever considered that someone may be walking slowly or climbing stairs more slowly that you because they might be in pain? Or they may have a health condition?  Or maybe they’re just being present and not rushing through their day.

You never know.

Having interviewed thousands of people from all walks of life over the years for in-depth psychological assessments, research, interventions, and most recently for coaching, I can tell you that everyone has a story.

Besides hater quizzes, there’s also something that I’ve seen many times recently on my Facebook feed that leans more towards the compassionate side of the spectrum:  Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. While I don’t generally like to use war language (“fight” and “battle”), I agree with the overall sentiment of this statement.

It’s true. Maybe someone passed you in the right lane because he’s taking his dog to the vet for an emergency or going to visit his aging father in the hospital. I know, maybe not. But you never know.

So many people’s stories are relatable, heart-breaking, thought provoking and powerful. Knowing that not everyone starts out on the same foot can open us up to a world filled with compassion, understanding and empathy.

Side note: While we all have “stuff” to work though, we are not our stories.  Out stories do not define us and I’m not saying to always use it as an excuse or to cast blame on something or something else. And if your story is painful to you, consider seeking help to heal.

My point is that I encourage you to take the time to choose love and compassion before judging. Often people do the best they can with what they have and in their current state of consciousness.

And choosing love and compassion includes less judgment towards yourself as well.

What steps will you take to bring more compassion and less judgment in to your life?  Please share any insights and aha moments below!