Monday, January 26, 2009

Thinking out loud

I used to be that friend that everybody went to with their problems. That's how I used to make friends, I would seek out the broken souls (at least the female broken souls) and then get them to tell me their life stories. Then I would try to fix everything for them. One of my close friends growing up actually called me her "mentor" I was a 14-year-old with the mind of a wise old man.

I don't do that very much anymore. I haven't for a long time. It wasn't that I didn't like it. I loved it, I loved making people happy and making them feel better about themselves. I'm not completely sure why I gave it up, probably because it was just too damned exhausting. In a few frustrating situations I found out that sometimes people don't want to be happy, they like being miserable, and you can't fix somebody that doesn't want to be fixed.

I also learned that when it comes to advice most people don't want it. 99% of the time when people ask for advice they're asking for you to tell them what they want to hear. They've made up their minds, now they just want somebody else to say what they're thinking so that they will be more confident with the decision they're already decided upon. It's not exactly an optimistic way to look at it, but we all do it.

I've never been very good at telling people what they want to hear, that drove some people away, and I also gave up on fixing people. I can't fix anybody, even if they want me to. When I gave up trying to be the "caretaker to the world" (as my school counselor would call it) my mental health improved dramatically. I started taking care of (and looking out for) myself. To this day that's something that sounds selfish for me to do, but I understand that it has a lot to do with why I'm as resilient a person as I am.

I also stopped giving out so much advice. My close friends all know (or at least they should know) that I would do anything for them, but a lot of times advice isn't what they want or need, which is something I didn't know why I was younger (and sometimes I forget, ask around, I tend to give out my fair share of unsolicited advice, my bad). Sometimes somebody just wants to talk about what's bugging them, to think out loud. Sometimes they just want a hug, and sometimes they don't want to talk about their problems at all, sometimes they need to get their mind off of their problems, if even just for an hour or two.

That said, sometimes I find myself falling into bad habits. I'll see a friend heading down a path that everybody around them knows isn't good for them, and I'll pull my hair out wanting to get them to change their minds. Sometimes I just want to shake them senseless, or at least until they can realize how stupid they're acting. It drives me nuts when I see somebody I care about ignore the great opportunities they have in front of them in favor of some misguided pipe dream that is only going to lead to them getting hurt.

But now, unlike before, I know that I need to stop myself. I don't know as much as I think I do sometimes, and besides, it's not my place to tell them what they should and shouldn't do. In the end the best thing is to let them go off and learn the lesson for themselves, and sometimes people need to chase their pipe dreams.

So instead of rushing in and trying to rectify the situation I'll keep my mouth shut. That's what a good friend does. I think.


littlemissme said...

'tis true that some people just don't want to hear it. But in my opinion, a little gentle advice is sometimes called for *and* needed in close relationships. <3

Camden Watts said...

Love this post, as I used to do similar things. Glad you're learning lessons and sharing them with others! Keep 'em coming.

Kelli said...

Wow Jas!! You still amaze me with your thought process. In all my teaching years..I have never met a more intelligent person than yourself. I can't wait to see the lives you will change by people coming in contact with you. I know you have changed mine. Check out my blog ant