It is impossible to count on one hand the amount of times that I have heard someone comment, “Why are you making such a big deal? There are children starving to death in Africa.” Well yes, there are children starving in Africa, but that does not make a person’s problem any less important. Minimizing each other’s problems, whether it is done by not listening, or maybe comparing someone else’s problems to your own, and trying to make their problem any less significant, it does not do any favors for anybody.
Over the span of my high school life, I have observed the ruthless act of students minimizing each others problems, as if someone’s problem is more important than the other. In high school, teenagers are exposed to all kinds of stress. The heavy work load and sleep deprivation takes a huge toll on the student, not to mention, the intense competitive environment as well. To sum it up, students carry fears, problems and emotions that follow them all around. So when they openly talk about their problems, only to be shot down, is problematic, to say the least.
Scott Young, who runs <scotthyoung.com>, a blog focused on human behavior, created “The 7 Critical Rules to Understand people”. His fifth rule is “Everyone is emotional”. He says that even though it might not show, people have their struggles, and for that reason we must be conscious when listening to people .
“We all have our individual problems, angst and upsets that are normally contained,” Young said. “You don’t need to call people out on their private deception, but being sensitive to those underlying currents gives you an advantage in trying to help.”
However small a problem may seem to someone, that does not mean that the problem is considered insignificant to the other person. Whatever the problem is, it is causing them to feel real emotions, and nobody except them can be the judge of that. Comparing it to your own problems, or commenting that there are bigger problems in the world, not only worsens the situation, but also makes no logical sense. They even go as far as comparing it to a global crisis, as if the crisis could be solved with the click of a button.
Like Young said, we have to be sensitive because we never know what someone is dealing with. In the same way that we have to be sensitive when we do not know, we have to be even more careful in how we react when someone does explicitly share a problem. Making sure that we do not minimize others’ problems is a crucial lesson to learn when dealing with the people we share the planet with.