For example, I'd like to say:

In my experience, I've come to understand that people tend to be misunderstood.

But with a word more like 'historically.'

Historically, I've come to understand that people tend to be misunderstood.

The reason I don't want to use 'in my experience' is the feeling it evokes of my experience vs. someone else's experience.

I'd like a word that instead emphasizes: "personal experiences have shown" in the same way that 'historically' is thought of as 'times have shown.'

There is no room for subjective interpretation when using the word 'historically.' But using 'in my experience' feels like it casts doubt on whether my interpretation of the experiences is valid.

  1. Does this word even exist or will I just have to structure the sentence better to give off this feeling?
  2. Is my feeling that "'in my experience' casts doubt of whether my interpretation of the experiences is valid" even valid? Or is this just my brain lying to me?

I realize this might be nitpicky, but words are awesome and I love thinking about them.

  • 1
    As long as it has to be a single word, and only carry positive connotations, I'd probably have to go with "observationally", but that's a very clunky word, so I'll put it in this comment instead of an answer.
    – Bass
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 21:45
  • Hi Tariq! You say, "The reason I don't want to use 'in my experience' is the feeling it evokes of my experience vs. someone else's experience." But what you are saying - "People are often misunderstood" - is not even slightly controversial! We would probably all agree with it. Anything we write will be from our own perspective. We are interested in each other's opinions and we would be interested in yours! If you really want to remove yourself from the statement, it would be safe to say, "Throughout history people have been misunderstood." Who would argue with that? Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 21:51
  • 2
    The only thing wrong with "In my experience, I've come to understand that people tend to be misunderstood" is that you don't need 'I've come to understand'. "Experience has shown me that people are often misunderstood" is plain English. Won't that do? Do we really need a word like 'historically' in there? Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 21:55
  • I think you're absolutely right and I have to say I immensely appreciate the kindness in your comment. I asked this question from my curiosity of the subtle meanings within phrases and words. I'd never noticed the connotation attached to "in my experience" before trying to write this sentence. That said, I think your comment highlights a technique I always forget to use: say less. Thank you.
    – Tariq
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 0:46
  • 1
    "In my lifetime", "since 1950" (if you're old), "in this century" (if you're young).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 23:04

4 Answers 4


Time tells us that people tend to be misunderstood.


Time teaches us that people tend to be misunderstood.

…are straightforward ways of expressing the idea, with the use of “us” to avoid the over-personal effect the poster wishes to avoid. (Obviously, “me“ can be substituted if one prefers.) A weakness I can see is that it is not certain that time refers to the lifetime of the individuals in the conversation, but may be taken as indicating historic time in general. If this is a concern, then perhaps better would be:

Life tells us that people tend to be misunderstood.


Life teaches us that people tend to be misunderstood.

This has a slightly different resonance: it sounds a bit more “preachy”, as does the use of “teaches” rather than “tells”.

My answer does not employ the requested “single word”, but a different phrase and construction. I think it is much snappier, and, looking for a single word to replace one in a sentence is a common and unnecessary straitjacket that posters on this site often impose upon themselves. If one wants to communicate ideas rather than pose seasonal puzzles, breaking out of the straitjacket is generally necessary.

If I had to vote for one of these, I would put “other” on my ballot paper and avoid the “us”, which doesn’t bother me.

Time teaches that people tend to be misunderstood.

Short and sweet, with more emphasis on the alliteration, and crediting the reader with being able to understand the context.

  • @EdwinAshworth — There should be some mechanism for a "don't do that" response to this sort of straitjacket nonsense. Anyway, I don't agree that it is specifically a SWR. The OP considers the phrase "in my experience".
    – David
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 13:11
  • I actually like your suggestions, and I agree that they're globally useful. ELU is more than a Q & A site. Haven't you enough rep to add allowance tags to the question? I've jibbed here because Bass confined his response to a 'comment' in line with the lone SWR tag and title question. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 13:47
  • @EdwinAshworth — What do you mean by "allowance tags"?
    – David
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 16:41
  • Added tags that don't restrict licensed answers unrealistically/unhelpfully, unless OP makes it absolutely clear that they don't want other than say a single word. Note that Bass, limiting themself as is correct to the SWR tag, provides a sub-optimal suggestion in an attempt to keep to the rules yet be helpful. Of course, adding/changing tags shouldn't be done on a whim. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 16:47
  • @EdwinAshworth — Thanks. I imagine I have enough reputation — It’s presumably the same as for question edits.
    – David
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 16:54

I think "I've come to understand that..." sounds rather like you're expressing something that you believe to be objective truth, which tends to overrule your personal experiences.

You could get around that by writing something like, "My own experience suggests that people tend to be misunderstood" - but I'd caution that depending upon the context this may also imply you're referring to a single event rather than cumulative life experience.


Well, first of all there is room for opinion and interpretation in history. For example, "who was responsible for the first world war?" or "who discovered the wheel?" or even "was there CIA involvement in the assasination of Malcolm X?".

Conversely, personal experience because it is personal is often seen to be authentic. This helps explain the popularity of autobiographies or testimonies.

As for an example:

The world teaches everyone that being misunderstood is a common experience


I have two suggestions:

Anecdotally which means

Based on casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis

Which would imply that your understanding is based on your own experience directly or via the stories you have heard.

The word Contemporary might also be of interest to you, particularly the meaning:

belonging to the same age; living or occurring in the same period of time

(From Collins English Dictionary) People who are your contemporaries live at the same time as you.

You could say:

Contemporary anecdotes indicate that people tend to (feel or be) misunderstood.

  • 2
    Neither of these word emphasize personal experience.
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 21:25
  • In that context, "contemporary" means at the same time as now. For it to mean at the same time as someone, you have to specify the someone. For instances, "anecdotes contemporary to Tariq indicate ..." And as Tariq says, that doesn't emphasize personal experience, it just means they happened after Tariq was born and before they died. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 0:09

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