This guest post was submitted by Gary Kazazian. You can check out his upcoming EP at garykazazian.com.
People show care in a number of ways: gift giving, offering insight, listening to someone in a time of need, cheering somebody up, showing up on time, never canceling, being agreeable even if they don’t necessarily agree, etc. Though much of the above are agreed upon universal ways of showing care, there is quite a bit of grey area in the matter. One area that doesn’t have much grey area is gift giving. Across the world, gift giving is an act of care. Even if the gift is something that the recipient doesn’t particularly enjoy, it is usually still a net positive in terms of care.
The grey area lies in interpersonal dynamics that are less easily seen or measured. For example, if someone says that they feel a certain way and the person he or she is conversing with honors that feeling, it would often be considered an act of care. Certainly, if someone has been blatantly wronged and feels sad because of it, it’s justified to offer sympathy to said individual. However, there are situations in which the appropriate course of action isn’t particularly clear. Take, for example, someone being offended with the tone that their conversation partner is speaking. Also, for the sake of this argument, assume the person accused of the offensive tone had no malicious intent. Should the individual that offended give an apology? Most would agree that saying sorry would keep the peace. However, if the two people are required to converse regularly, then an apology in this instance could be interpreted merely as a band aid. After all, the root cause of the tone disconnect hasn’t been addressed. Some might be more inclined to analyze the differences in communication styles, and find common ground to avoid future conflict.
The above example highlights the difference between understanding and feeling. When it comes to caring, people are likely to prioritize one or other. Feeling oriented people are likely to take action or apologize without necessarily understanding the mechanisms that govern the emotion. Understanding oriented people might not trust the feeling itself and will instead look to unearth the underlying issue. Below is an example in which conflicting caring styles can cause problems in relationships.
Two friends are having a conversation. Let’s call them Andy and Mike. Suddenly, Mike is offended and proclaims that his feelings are hurt. Andy did not intend to offend Mike. Mike would like an apology because he had his feelings hurt. Andy is sympathetic. However, he is an individual that prioritizes understanding, so his instinct is to analyze the root cause of the misunderstanding. Mike gets the feeling (pun intended) that Andy doesn’t care about his feelings and the conversation escalates to an argument.
In friendships or relationships, it’s useful to have similar caring styles to avoid miscommunication. Much of caring is universal, but conflict can easily arise in the grey area. Try to be tolerant.