Imagine you're a college student who just went through a big breakup. You're so depressed that you're having trouble finishing an essay for a certain class, and you're hoping that you can plead your case and get the essay's deadline pushed back. You've heard through the grapevine that the teaching assistant recently went through a breakup, and you also know that the professor has been in a happy marriage for 30 years. Who do you choose to hear your request?
You might think that the recently heartbroken TA would be your safest bet, since that person knows firsthand the struggles you're going through. You'd be wrong. According to Harvard researchers, having "been there" actually makes you less empathetic toward other people's struggles.