I find it amusing how often people feel the need to express their judgment of a situation by making a statement about how they would handle a situation if they were in it. I was reminded of this again from Joe Biden’s recent comment about how he would have handled Trump. I suppose in a way the “If it were me” perspective is the opposite of empathy. Instead of trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to try to understand where they are coming from and how that has impacted their behavior, the speaker is placing judgment on the person in the situation and putting themself hypothetically in the situation, yet making the whole thing more appropriate or acceptable?
To borrow the March for our Lives slogan, I call B.S. on this. Until you have actually lived in a situation that is stressful or emotional or incomprehensible, you really cannot say you know what you would do in that situation. You know your own personality, sure, but we all find ourselves in situations that we never expected to be in and we are forced to interpret, respond, adapt, etc. as a situation unfolds. Think domestic violence, sexual harassment, being diagnosed with an illness, having a sick child, being involved in a tragedy, etc. etc. Yet this behavior of saying “if it were me…” is so commonplace. I know, I used to do it just as much as the next person. Until one day I simply stopped. I don’t assume I know all the factors involved in someone else’s choices; therefore I don’t assume I know better. Also, who am I to judge?
I advocate for the following: Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes with empathy rather than putting your hypothetical shoes in someone else’s situation with judgment.