My Views on Sympathy: Toughies vs. Softies

“I think the saddest people try always try their hardest to make people happy, because they know what it’s like to feel worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”

–  Unknown


Hello, friends! I don’t normally delve into the world of psychology, but I’ve been having an intense few days of revising my novel and I need a break. So, I’m going to blog about something I’ve noticed and found fascinating.

You have a problem. I won’t go all Mad Libs and fill in the blanks, but let’s say it’s a problem that doesn’t go away after a day. Maybe relationship issues, or the threat of losing someone, or being bullied. Something along those lines. And, naturally, you talk to someone about it.

I’ve learned that in this type of situation, so forth emerge two types of people. I’ll stick with trivial labels and call them the toughies and the softies. In my interactions, I’ve seen both types of people, and I was intrigued by how different their views are.

If you will, allow me to detail each archetype:


The Softies:

We’ll start with these peeps. I want you to think of someone you know who has a lot of problems they’re dealing with. You may or may not know what the problems are; you just know they’ve seen the rougher side of life lately. And you know this because they’ll talk to you a lot when something is bothering them. They’ll vent, and maybe cry (if it’s in person) and feel the need to just let people know if they have issues.

We all know someone like that, right?

I’m like this, which surprises a lot of people since I’m a guy. No, I don’t break down and cry every time I have a bad day or anything (in fact, I haven’t cried in quite a while) but I have to talk to someone if I have a big problem in my life. And if a person does something to piss me off, I let them know, sooner rather than later. I can’t just let things go, which is one of my biggest flaws.

Being a softie, let me shed light on the other side of that: likewise, if someone comes to me with a problem, I’ll listen to them. Intently. I don’t care what the issue is; it could be anything from a rough day to feeling like they’ve got nothing left. I’ll listen, and I’ll never think to myself, wow, you need to stop whining. Buck up, sissypants. I mean yeah, if they whine about their broken air conditioning twice a day, every day, I’ll tell them to shut up. But big stuff? I’ll always be there to listen. And I make sure friends know that.

During Senior week back in June, I had a small fight with my girlfriend on our anniversary. It was a rough evening. One of the other girls on the trip just grabbed me and said, “Come on. You need a walk.” The two of us walked for an hour, and I felt like a million tons had been lifted off my shoulders. Then, very recently, that same friend came to me with a problem they’d been keeping pushed down for a long time. I listened, and hugged her, and told her it’d all be okay.

Softies, both of us. We knew what it was like to be hurt by the smallest things, so we knew how to help each other.

I like softies best, personally.


The Toughies:

This shouldn’t be a hard description to fill in: toughies are pretty much the opposite of softies. If they have problems, they’ll deal with it on their own. They don’t feel the need to talk to people, and might even get annoyed if someone asks “hey, is everything okay?” If you gagged at the epigraph for this post, you’re probably a toughie. And a lot of people probably have the urge to think of toughies as horrible jerks. But, I disagree with that.

That’s what inspired me to write this post: because I spent a good part of my life assuming most people were softies. I never had too many problems I needed to talk to people about, and on the occasion I did, most listened. It didn’t occur to me until these past few months that someone could be your friend, and still not really want to listen to your issues.

Ironically, I’m using my two closest friends as examples. One of them, my friend who’s a girl (and whom I used to date), is a major toughie. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her complain about anything big, and trust me, she’d have good reason to. And likewise, she doesn’t have an enormous level of sympathy when people—AKA me—say, “Hey, I need to talk to someone, can you listen?” It has nothing to do with how much that friend loves you; it’s just their mindset. They don’t think anyone should ever complain about anything, to be drastic.

The other person in my example is my best friend. Don’t get me wrong, he’s great, but heaven help you if you need to talk about something that hurt your feelings. A while ago, I tried that, and received the following warm and fuzzy reply: “That’s the problem. You get all whiny when someone steps on your toes. What’s to gain by saying how hurt you are, other than sympathy? Nothing! Get over yourself and get on with life. The world isn’t going to apologize if they make you feel bad.”

Again, I’m not picking on my best friend. I’m just saying, toughies in general are the kind of people who believe that everyone should keep problems to themselves. Which is why toughies and softies might clash sometimes.

Do I get mad when people tell me to get over a problem I’m having? Of course I do! I think to myself, how can someone be my friend if they don’t care about my problems? But what I’ve learned, and what I want to share with everyone, is that some people just flat out have different views than you when it comes to dealing with issues. Some people, toughies, think that everyone should just learn to get over themselves.

So, next time you’re trying to talk to someone about a problem and they don’t seem to have much sympathy, try not to take it personally. They might just be a toughie.