You’re supposed to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before judging them. But as it turns out, that doesn’t really help. In fact, we’re less empathetic to people who have endured the same troubles we have.
In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers conducted a series of experiments that measured how compassionate people were toward other people who endured the similar struggles but made poor decisions. For example, in one experiment, subjects were told a story about a bullied teen. In one scenario, the teen coped successfully. In another, the teen responded violently. In the latter scenario, researchers found that participants who’d been bullied themselves were least compassionate about the kid who didn’t cope successfully. In short, researchers came to the same basic conclusion with all of the experiments: