Friday, July 13, 2018

At Least




I learned a new combination of words yesterday that have a complicated and far more difficult connotation than I realized.

"At least . . . "

The words have two definitions, one is clearly mathematical and the other is for use in a life setting:


if nothing else (used to add a positive comment about a generally negative situation).

"the options aren't complete, but at least they're a start"

At lease can be used by well-meaning people who just do not understand a situation to try to make people feel better. But it falls well short. 

Examples:

My cat ran away.
At least you have two dogs.

My car is broken.
At least you can have it fixed.

My roof is leaking.
At least you have a house.

I have (insert some disease or sickness)
At least it is treatable.

I saw a short video by Dr Brene Brown in a leadership class yesterday about the difference between empathy and sympathy and the use of the words "at least" really resonated with me. If you have a few minutes, watch the whole video, but if you are in a hurry, fast forward to 1:55.

I realized that using the words "at least" minimize the problem and the feelings of the person with the problem. They do not help and they may harm. 

The image I added to the blog highlights the problem. When I fail, I don't want to be reminded that I tried, and failed. I want someone to understand where I am. Maybe just a hug and a reassurance that I am not alone. 

I read another blog on the sympathy and empathy. I found it short and interesting.


What’s The Difference Between Empathy And Sympathy, And Why Has Sympathy Got Such A Bad Name?


I am going to try not to use the words "at least" except when referring to mathematical situations in the future. I realize that "at least" does not convey my true intent when someone brings a problem or concern to my attention.

At least it is Friday.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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