I was reared all over the world due to my parents’ peregrinating professions, that of an international consulting mining engineer [my father] and an exploratory geologist [my mother] and learned to make friends quickly even as a preschooler. As I became a little older my mother kept gently encouraging me to really get to know people, as in her view, “everyone has a (life) story to tell.” Fortunately I was pretty social, friendly and forward for a boy and enjoyed meeting people. It helped witnessing my parents having “foreigners” over to our home constantly for dinner and wide ranging conversations exchanging life experiences. I learned very early on that all one had to do to get a more than ordinary conversation going, beyond simply saying hello or how are you, was to ask people something about themselves. Almost everyone except a CIA or NSA operative responds positively to that opening conversational gambit and I early on learn to revel in the unique and never-the-same life stories that I would hear from children my age and even adults. As one might guess, I became quickly comfortable talking with adults.
And I suppose this is one of the earliest and most telling background reasons why I became a psychiatrists. I love hearing others’ experiences even when tragic and pained and that is how I answer the perennial ordinary citizen’s constant question to me of “how do you stand hearing all those sad stories?”