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Did you just "should" on me?  RSS feed

 
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Being English, this might be regional.. The word should definitely does have obligation attached to its use very often. However it can also be used as a suggestion...
"I heard you were looking for work. You should have a chat with Joe at the builders' yard, he's looking for someone"

Or an expectation/expression of likelihood...
"If you eat healthily, you should have more energy"

Or with "really" added afterwards to acknowledge its obligatory meaning while at the same time dismissing it...
"I shouldn't really watch my neighbour sunbathing naked"
 
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I think being "should on" feels better or okay IF you've asked for feedback. If you haven't asked for any feedback or help, and it's unsolicited, then it feels like being "should on" - basically that you're not doing it right.

Take Steve's example:

Steve Farmer wrote:Being English, this might be regional.. The word should definitely does have obligation attached to its use very often. However it can also be used as a suggestion...
"I heard you were looking for work. You should have a chat with Joe at the builders' yard, he's looking for someone"


If the person looking for work is exhausted from their job search, has very specific job search goals, and/or, worse, yet, has already talked to Joe at the builders' yard and been rejected, the "should" from someone, however well meaning, is painful. I struggle to imagine a scenario where the "should" does not imply "here, you obviously don't know everything, and I have a good/better/best idea for you." That kind of implication is, well, slightly (or sometimes overtly) derogatory.

The alternative scenario is if the person looking for a job ASKS for ideas. And someone replies "you should have a chat with Joe at the builders' yard, he's looking for someone." Then it's, YES! Thank you! Good to know! and all that.

The point is that unsolicited "shoulds" are criticisms. Criticisms suggest someone is less than perfect. If you are a guest in a home, do you "should on" your host? "Hey Susie, you should change your couch to be one that can seat more people."  Or "Hey Mark, you should use different dish soap in your kitchen and hand wash your dishes." I mean, the folks who do that might not be invited back!





 
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I think being "should on" feels better or okay IF you've asked for feedback. If you haven't asked for any feedback or help, and it's unsolicited, then it feels like being "should on" - basically that you're not doing it right.



Thank you Jocelyn...timely...I just reworded my post https://permies.com/t/80/92479/Ethics-working-working-money#798748
 
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Judith Browning wrote:

I think being "should on" feels better or okay IF you've asked for feedback. If you haven't asked for any feedback or help, and it's unsolicited, then it feels like being "should on" - basically that you're not doing it right.



Thank you Jocelyn...timely...I just reworded my post https://permies.com/t/80/92479/Ethics-working-working-money#798748


Ah, but ethics and philosophy is about what is right or wrong, yes? That, I think is a bit different. And it seems I always appreciate your point of view, Judith. And to me, you have a very respectful, very supportive way of sharing your views! Thank you for hanging out on permies with us!

I'm still smarting a bit from someone giving us (those of us at wheaton labs) unsolicited "shoulds" with about every other sentence in a multitude of conversations. Even our dish soap was criticized. It's rather tiring. In hindsight, it feels like being hit repeatedly with a bat, though I think I'm extra sensitive recently due to a bunch of compounding factors. So I felt like reviving this thread.

I wondered aloud at a community dinner this week, why it is that visitors here give us more "shoulds" than a guest at someone's home might. Fred replied that he thought it could be that since we're trying so many innovative or experimental things that it seems we'd be more open to suggestions/"shoulds" than others. Or, maybe (this is from me, not Fred) since Paul and myself are so forthright with our own opinions, others feel they can (or are welcome or entitled to?) share their own opinions about what we're doing.  

 
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This thread brings to my mind that expression from the 1980's: "Would've, should've, could've... didn't."  That's what I tell myself when I've failed at some elementary task and have to live with the consequences.  Typically I'm the one to repeatedly tell myself that I *should* do this or that.

When someone else tells me that I *should* do something, I respond in one of 3 ways.  If I agree with it, I say "Yes I certainly should do that."  If I disagree I either state my reasons for not doing it, or else I simply say "I'll take that under advisement."

 
Judith Browning
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
I'm still smarting a bit from someone giving us (those of us at wheaton labs) unsolicited "shoulds" with about every other sentence in a multitude of conversations. Even our dish soap was criticized. It's rather tiring. In hindsight, it feels like being hit repeatedly with a bat, though I think I'm extra sensitive recently due to a bunch of compounding factors. So I felt like reviving this thread.

I wondered aloud at a community dinner this week, why it is that visitors here give us more "shoulds" than a guest at someone's home might. Fred replied that he thought it could be that since we're trying so many innovative or experimental things that it seems we'd be more open to suggestions/"shoulds" than others. Or, maybe (this is from me, not Fred) since Paul and myself are so forthright with our own opinions, others feel they can (or are welcome or entitled to?) share their own opinions about what we're doing.  


Yes!  One of the more annoying and exhausting situations is for someone to come visit and see how things 'should' be rather than how they are, or how you got there, or where you were going with your own plans and ideas.

I think some folks look at their surroundings with a critical eye and are always looking for (their version of)  improvements...we got that reaction often when we lived off grid in a cabin up a trail.  It was so unusual for many folks that they felt like they had to 'suggest' ways to better our conditions.    
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Judith Browning wrote:I think some folks look at their surroundings with a critical eye and are always looking for (their version of)  improvements...we got that reaction often when we lived off grid in a cabin up a trail.  It was so unusual for many folks that they felt like they had to 'suggest' ways to better our conditions.    


Thank you for being so understanding and for your example, Judith! It helps! And yes, "so unusual"...we have that in spades!

We've poured resources in to facilitating hundreds of visitors, residents, and helpers (maybe over 500 now?) who are new and learning, and poured even more resources in to amateurs doing projects for us. So much so, that to some, what we have after 5 years isn't nearly what some people expect or would have chosen as their priority. And that's okay. I'm choosing to frame it that we've invested a lot in people, not things; and, in my book, that is way cool. Even if it doesn't really show on the property as much at the moment.

We're such a teaching site though, that my conversations wander over into implied "shoulds" probably more often than I'd like to admit. Especially when it comes to food. I have some strong opinions on what is healthy or isn't, and I recently told someone all about how I think salt is fine if balanced with enough potassium, and the poor person's eyes glazed over. Ha! I'd like to catch myself before doing that kind of thing overmuch.

 
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First of all, I am truly sorry that you and Paul get criticized for everything. I admit that I have never been to your location, but I do know how it can grate on your nerves when people cannot seem to give you credit for anything. I said this before, I wish you lived closer, I would shake Paul's hand, and give you a hug for all you endure.

I was told a long time ago by someone that people often just want to be heard. Why that is, takes on many different reasons. Perhaps it is because they have low self esteem and criticizing others makes them feel better about themselves? For others it may be because a spouse may be domineering and they can never say anything? Honestly who knows, but my brother showed me how to deal with those people. When he gets cut off, or some driver does something stupid, he waves to them. To him it his way of flipping them off, but they see his friendly wave and think he is being jovial. It is the ultimate, "you are so stupid and don't really know what I am really telling you", response my brother can give. So I have adopted it.

It is hard at first because people like you, Paul and I who put a lot of thought, work, and money into farming want to lash back with why we do what we do.

Last week I was tested in this. A neighbor wanted to hunt on my land, and after getting permission proceeded to tell me how stupid I was for getting scammed out of a bunch of money from a logger who cut my woodlot off and never paid me. It is bad enough to eat the $11,000 owed to me, but to hear the guy say it would never happen to him...after just asking for a favor, was tough. But in the end I just waved and he went on his way to hunt. The guy owns 400 acres, if he cannot hunt a deer on that, and must come onto mine to hunt, it says a lot about his hunting skills and intellect. It seems the deer he is hunting is smarter then he is. It seems I am not the only one laughing at him; so are the deer.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Oh gosh, Travis, thank you for the kind words and I'm SO sorry your neighbor was that way about your loss. Hindsight is always 20/20 and it's remarkable how much others think they would never fall prey to things that happen to many of us.

That is another flavor of "should!" You "should have done ____ and that never would have happened!" Or, "I would have (implied "you should have") done _________." It's kind of like saying, I would have chosen door #3 after you've told them what's behind all three doors. We have suffered similar financial losses here, too. We took risks, and we knew they were risks, and we lost. Other big risks have paid off in big ways, so in all, we're on the plus side of things, though it's not really a scoring game, if you know what I mean.

Kind of like Marci's "I'll take that under advisement" and your brother's wave (instead of the finger) I'm looking for ways to let it roll on by myself. I'm getting better. I think the key is being as resilient - emotionally, physically, spiritually or in the heart - as a person can be. Then, it's super easy not to be as sensitive or as tested when some says "you should have picked door #3, duh!"

 
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I'm struggling with this too. Why do some people feel the need to tell other people what they should do? I mean, really, why? I feel that if I understood the reason better I could respond in a more positive and productive manner.

I myself do use some "should" sentences too. In my language the "should" is about how things would be in an ideal world, on a more general level. "We should be able to live within planetary limits", for example. Or "That seems wrong, it shouldn't be like that."

My mother uses shoulds a lot. She is perhaps an extreme example. Mostly it's about what I should do, but she also likes to tell me what she thinks my brother should do. A few months ago she went on and on how she thinks my brother travels too much. "He is a father, he shouldn't travel that much. Should I go and address myself to him on this matter?"

My response was: "Isn't it the problem of my brother's wife, not ours? If she is okay with it him traveling and they're happy, what's the problem? And second of all, are we such experts on marriage that we can give advice about it? I know I'm not."

My mother's response to that was: "He shouldn't travel that much. I should address myself to him on the matter."

Sigh...

Her "shoulding" isn't limited to family members either. She has shoulded neighbours, co-workers, even parents of my children's friends! She doesn't have many friends of her own (big surprise...) and the ones she does have do not tell any personal stuff to her (another big surprise there...) they just talk about work, weather, etc.

Like Jocelyn mentioned about the shoulds she and Paul have had to endure, the shoulds of my mother are typically about non-problems. I've tried in vain to tell her that that thing she worries about (if it is worrying, which I'm beginning to doubt) is not something to worry about, it's not a problem. I've told her how we have this and this other thing, however, that IS a problem. She is not worried about that, only about her original "worry".

I don't know what is going on but I'm beginning to understand that it's not about genuine care/ fear of something bad happening to someone unless they do X. Not in my mother's case.

However, if someone shoulds on me but then changes his/her "should" after hearing about what I think is the real problem, and the new "should" addresses that problem, that would be a different case. That would feel like genuine care. Perhaps not expressed in the most diplomatic way, but still, I would interpret it as genuine care for my well-being.






 
Travis Johnson
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In applying Permie Principals to this...if I may...and I only present this for a discussion and potential thought, and by no means an absolute; is it possible that "Should-People (henceforth called "Shouldels") just be jealous?
In every one of these situations it is possible that jealousy is at play?

Perhaps the people visiting Joycelyn's place are jealous they do not have as much Permie stuff as them, and so nit-pick on the tiniest stuff that they do?
Perhaps your mother Nina, has always wanted to travel herself, and feels jealous because of this reason or that, never could?
And since my neighbor wanted to hunt on me, there is no question he thinks the hunting is better on my land then upon his.

I say all that that gently Nina, as I do not know your Mom, and could not say anything bad about anyone's mother on here in any sort of negative way.

But there does seem to be a pattern of behavior here. It is almost as if the Shouldels are saying, "You should", when deep in their hearts they are saying to themselves "I wish I could", or "I wish I had".

I say all this for discussion because in my own life, another pattern I have seen is that people who are hurting; lash out. You see this a lot in physical pain where caregivers are treated to their own physical, verbal and mental abuse. Yet, one of the most painful times emotionally is when a person feels trapped. Such examples could be when a middle manager is dealt blame despite pressure from management above him/her, yet subordinates that through say Union Shop Rules do not have to heed them. Another is, a deplorable marriage where kids, finances, etc must keep them in the relationship despite people wanting to get out! I bet if there was a study on linguistics, the word "Should" would be in their vocabulary a lot.

But then again, maybe someone should be a "Shoudel" and tell me, "Travis, you should go drink another cup of coffee" regarding all this. (And yes, I am jealous I do not have a pychology degree to put any sort of knowledgeable certification behind what I present here). :-)
 
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‘Should’ can also be said in a funny, often ironic or sarcastic, way.

In Oz it’s very common to critique someone’s mistake by stating the obvious, for example:

You’ve gone over a friends place, with a group of others, to help do some work. Whilst digging a hole one of the blokes strikes a water pipe, creating a fountain of water. As they all gather around to see the mess, members of the group respond:

‘Geez mate, you should’ve checked for water pipes before you started digging.’

‘There’s an idea, you should make that a permanent water feature.’

‘I reckon maybe someone should turn the water off?’

It’s a traditional way to calm, what otherwise could be, a tense situation.

 
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F Agricola wrote:‘Should’ can also be said in a funny, often ironic or sarcastic, way.

In Oz it’s very common to critique someone’s mistake by stating the obvious, for example:

You’ve gone over a friends place, with a group of others, to help do some work. Whilst digging a hole one of the blokes strikes a water pipe, creating a fountain of water. As they all gather around to see the mess, members of the group respond:

‘Geez mate, you should’ve checked for water pipes before you started digging.’

‘There’s an idea, you should make that a permanent water feature.’

‘I reckon maybe someone should turn the water off?’

It’s a traditional way to calm, what otherwise could be, a tense situation.



Lol, I love that! My brothers and I do that all the time,  along with "I wouldn't have done that" It's used in similar situations,  say,  smashing your thumb with a hammer,  or backing over your kid's bike in the driveway.
 
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Instead of people using "should" would it be better received if the person said something like "have you thought of trying .... "? I'm not sure if that is better.
 
Travis Johnson
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Trace Oswald wrote:Lol, I love that!...smashing your thumb with a hammer...



You are much more genteel then me, I typically yell out, "You got it surrounded, now go for the kill."


 
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Travis Johnson wrote: is it possible that "Should-People (henceforth called "Shouldels") just be jealous?
In every one of these situations it is possible that jealousy is at play?



I think a lot of Shouldels are talking from a position of know-it-all and hindsight.  Made up examples:

Sure, I should have worked harder on my greenhouse in the summer when it was warm and it would have avoided me putting up siding in 25 degree weather now.  But I know that myself and you saying it doesn't really help.  

Or, yes that's a glorious food forest but you should plant some vining layer and more comfrey.  I'd say "Hell, we're just lucky we got it planted, I know it could be better but I'm glad how far I got."


One problem with being as involved with Permies as I've been is that now I kind of bristle at non-permies who say "should" all the time.  I think it's part of US speech to use "should" in cases where you could also use "might want to" or "if you were asking for advice, I'd suggest".  So I don't think it's usually intentional but now I hear it all the time.  Thanks Paul
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Nina Jay wrote:I'm struggling with this too. Why do some people feel the need to tell other people what they should do? I mean, really, why? I feel that if I understood the reason better I could respond in a more positive and productive manner.

...

My mother uses shoulds a lot. ...


I've known quite a few mother's who use "should" a lot and I have a couple theories.

The first is that children are raised by their mother, meaning that their actions are a reflection of that parenting. So even if the child is now an adult, their choices, their failures or successes, are seen as a reflection of that parenting. I think this results in mothers "shoulding" on their adult children - because the mothers don't want to look like they were/are poor parents.

The second theory I have is perhaps a bit sexist, though as a woman and mother myself, I think I can present it. Since women are such caretakers, and mothers especially might get their main identity as being a mother, or a family caretaker, there might not be other avenues for those mothers to build their identity or self-worth (or joy) through other accomplishments. I think some women only try for their self-worth, (or success, if you will), or only know how to tie their self-worth, through others. So if your self-worth is inextricably tied to others, I think that results in wanting the others to behave "just so" for your own happiness, resulting in all the "shoulds."

I'm not sure if that second theory was explained very well, though I'm sure we all have met people/parents like that - perhaps of either/any sex! Some people just don't have boundaries with their loved ones, and cannot see that they will not be able to control another person's actions.

The third theory is (simply) a flavor of righteousness. When someone is convinced something is right, the "shoulds" just naturally follow. Because everyone should know what is right, shouldn't they? ;-)
 
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:

The first is that children are raised by their mother, meaning that their actions are a reflection of that parenting. So even if the child is now an adult, their choices, their failures or successes, are seen as a reflection of that parenting. I think this results in mothers "shoulding" on their adult children - because the mothers don't want to look like they were/are poor parents.

The second theory I have is perhaps a bit sexist, though as a woman and mother myself, I think I can present it. Since women are such caretakers, and mothers especially might get their main identity as being a mother, or a family caretaker, there might not be other avenues for those mothers to build their identity or self-worth (or joy) through other accomplishments. I think some women only try for their self-worth, (or success, if you will), or only know how to tie their self-worth, through others. So if your self-worth is inextricably tied to others, I think that results in wanting the others to behave "just so" for your own happiness, resulting in all the "shoulds."

I'm not sure if that second theory was explained very well, though I'm sure we all have met people/parents like that - perhaps of either/any sex! Some people just don't have boundaries with their loved ones, and cannot see that they will not be able to control another person's actions.

The third theory is (simply) a flavor of righteousness. When someone is convinced something is right, the "shoulds" just naturally follow. Because everyone should know what is right, shouldn't they? ;-)



I think this is starting to get closer to the point, actually.  The armchair psychologist in me really agrees with the concept of "projection" where we most often project onto others dissatisfactions that we have with ourselves or our own lives.....it's a psycho-protective way of dis-owning things that we find distasteful or uncomfortable about ourselves.  Thus, if those who visit Wheaton Labs are constantly pointing out things you *should* do or be doing, it's usually because those very things are deficient in their own lives and they feel somewhat powerless to change those aspects of their own lives.  This concept doesn't ALWAYS stand up to scrutiny, but I find it does in the vast majority of cases.  A good way to observe projection in one's own life is to be aware of things that *really* get your goat (really irritate you) about another person.  Often these are justifiable.....but also very often they are not.  In the latter case where you find someone irritating you for not such good reasons, it's often because what irritates you in them is something that you yourself have a hard time with, it's just that it's often something we have a hard time admitting to ourselves.  So yes, with the example of mothers (generally holding a more subservient role in our culture) the "shoulds" flow unabated, possibly reflecting all of the things they themselves "should" have done or been able to do in a more powerful position or with greater self-esteem (...?).  These 'missed opportunities' are projected onto others who, in their mind, "should" be doing X, Y, and Z in order to make life in their snowglobe holodeck just perfect! :-) Just a possibility to add to your own and the others here..
 
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Thank you all so much for your insights, they really help! I think you're all onto something and everyone's views have something that rings true to me.
Possibly the biggest a-haa for me came from this one :

Jocelyn Campbell wrote:

children are raised by their mother, meaning that their actions are a reflection of that parenting. So even if the child is now an adult, their choices, their failures or successes, are seen as a reflection of that parenting. I think this results in mothers "shoulding" on their adult children - because the mothers don't want to look like they were/are poor parents.



This explains a lot. Many, many shoulds are now explained!

Now I think I finally know what to say to the traveling-too-much-complaint: Does it make you feel like a bad mother when my brother travels a lot?



Jocelyn Campbell wrote: The third theory is (simply) a flavor of righteousness. When someone is convinced something is right, the "shoulds" just naturally follow. Because everyone should know what is right, shouldn't they?




This righteousness theory is probably true too. What's behind it? How can someone be so convinced things can only be certain way and not in any other? I must admit I sometimes envy these righteouos people because they seem to be free of the constant doubt that I live in. I have about 10 hypotheses on everything and I just test them. Would this work? Okay, it didn't. How about this? For me, to be able to say to someone else "You should do x"  requires quite a bit of testing different hypotheses - I'm not often up for it. I mean, I have limited energy and testing all possible solutions takes a lot of energy. So, unless someone specifically asks me to, I probably won't start the process

I agree with those who said hindsight is another biggie for Shouldels. It is probably one of the most irritating shouldings for me.  Life isn't a Cher song and we cannot turn back time! If someone tells me what I should or should not have done say a year ago, I'm really at loss what to say. "I should have, but I didn't," seems like the logical while at the same time silly answer. Of course, the intention of these shouldings is probably "Learn from your mistakes, so you won't repeat them". But really, Shouldels, show me the person who WANTS to repeat their mistakes. If it was a mistake, chances are the person is aware of it. If the object of shoulding is not aware that he or she has made a mistake then I doubt pointing it out afterwards will help much either.



 
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Seems to me the whole kerfuffle about "should" is rooted in someone's childhood. Usually the word "should" is used in the adult world as a suggestion i.e. "You should consider...." and with children it is used by a teacher/parent that is trying to be soft spoken and not overbearing when teaching the child about manners, or other less than critical things.

If it is about master/student or someone telling someone else how to do something important then the word "don't" or "never" or "must" is used. Don't use power tools while standing in a puddle. Never clean a firearm without making sure it is unloaded.
 
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About hindsight a bit more. I prefer the expression "next time".

a) "You should have closed the door, now the animals have escaped."

vs.

b) "Next time can you close the door, so the animals won't escape."


I prefer b. It takes the focus from the past (that I can't change) to the present and the future, where anything is possible.

I also prefer requests over accusations.

 
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This brings up an interesting conversation that has been coming up quite often for me actually.

I am notorious for getting annoyed when people give me unsolicited advice. It realllllly bothers me when people should on me and I take quite a bit of effort to avoid that phrase when I am giving people support, emotional or practical. So I've come to the conclusion that *why* it bothers me is this notion that these other people think they know better than me about *myself* and *my life* than *I* do, and that really irritates me because it implies I am not capable of figuring shit out on my own, which is very untrue.

But what I've come to realize is that it really only FEELS like they think that. Most of the time (at least for me in my experiences) they don't *actually* think they know better than me, they are just trying to be helpful because they care about me and want me to not be in distress about whatever it is we are talking about. HOWEVER, I think this stems from people being codependent as SHIT and not knowing how to be okay with the people they care about being in distress so they are *so* uncomfortable by your pain that they are taking great effort to get you *out* of pain when really they could maybe just sit with you and allow you to feel what you're going through and sort it out yourself, like a good therapist would. So really people just need to learn how to not take other people's distress and/or pain on and let people express themselves without telling them what to do UNLESS THEY SAY WHAT SHOULD I DO DUDE?

The last element that is tied into the first part of the previous paragraph is that I think I inherently assume people do not have good intentions. That's a whole other conversation, and I don't think I *actually* believe this, but it seems like my gut response is that people are saying I'm incapable when really they are just trying to be helpful and nice. So that's my own baggage that I'm trying to unpack but my perspective has kind of changed on this topic since I've started to realize that more. Of just like oh, yeah, this is annoying, but they are just trying to be helpful. With my close friends and partners though, I tell them that when I am in distress, I pretty much never want or need advice, so unless I ask for it, I usually just need validation and understanding and love in those moments.
 
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Ha! I live with someone who has some similar attitudes and I still sometimes get in trouble for trying to “fix it”. Whereas my default attitude is “why would we even be HAVING this conversation if they didn’t want help?”

Needless to say it has behooven me to become educameted about differing personal styles of processing frusterpation and difficulty. I’ve gotten better. Sometimes I realize I’m not expected to solve the problem *before* getting negative feedback for offering a solution!
 
Trace Oswald
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Dan Boone wrote:Whereas my default attitude is “why would we even be HAVING this conversation if they didn’t want help?”



Amen.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Dan Boone wrote:Whereas my default attitude is “why would we even be HAVING this conversation if they didn’t want help?”



Amen.



We all want some sort of help when we reach out to someone for support.

The thing is, is that everyone's version of what "help" looks like, is different. So asking someone what *kind* of support and help they need or want instead of assuming that its the same kind *you* want, is usually the best way to navigate this kind of thing.
 
John Weiland
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:

The thing is, is that everyone's version of what "help" looks like, is different. So asking someone what *kind* of support and help they need or want instead of assuming that its the same kind *you* want, is usually the best way to navigate this kind of thing.



It took me most of the decades of my marriage to learn.....i.e, be instructed time and again.....this simple fact.  In brief, and irrespective of whether or not it was my wife, a co-worker, or a friend, *ANY* outburst of frustration was **to ME** a plea to FIX the problem.  Learning that this was not always that case....that indeed "help" was often just providing a listening ear.....was a major breakthrough of education, but not necessarily of implementation.  I have a pretty good idea of where I obtained this knee-jerk reaction that outbursts needed to be met with 'rescuing action', but the bottom line is that is was something that became deeply ingrained.....and was utterly false!  Although it doesn't solve all problems, the current 'go-to' approach now is to 'sit with' the tirade [somewhat like enjoying the effect of pure sodium on water ..:-) ], offer a genuine "That sucks....I'm sorry to hear that.", and then ask in the aftermath, "How would you like to have this problem addressed and over what time-line?"  Sometimes it's just as simple as listening,.....other times it's more involved, like solving global warming. ( ;-) )  What clued clueless me into my faulty way of perceiving the situation was the number of times conflagrations felt,...to *me*,.... like only a funeral wake would alleviate the rift in the house.  Only to have my wife suddenly say in a fairly matter-of-fact tone "I'm starving...what's for dinner?...".   In other words, *she* was not perceiving the situation as anything more than venting frustration whereas I had a different take altogether.

....And the schools still insist on "Gym" class instead of basic interpersonal relations! ....Doh! :-?
 
Dan Boone
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John Weiland wrote:It took me most of the decades of my marriage to learn.....i.e, be instructed time and again.....this simple fact.  In brief, and irrespective of whether or not it was my wife, a co-worker, or a friend, *ANY* outburst of frustration was **to ME** a plea to FIX the problem.  Learning that this was not always that case....that indeed "help" was often just providing a listening ear.....was a major breakthrough of education, but not necessarily of implementation.  I have a pretty good idea of where I obtained this knee-jerk reaction that outbursts needed to be met with 'rescuing action', but the bottom line is that is was something that became deeply ingrained.....and was utterly false!  Although it doesn't solve all problems, the current 'go-to' approach now is to 'sit with' the tirade [somewhat like enjoying the effect of pure sodium on water ..:-) ], offer a genuine "That sucks....I'm sorry to hear that.", and then ask in the aftermath, "How would you like to have this problem addressed and over what time-line?"  Sometimes it's just as simple as listening,.....other times it's more involved, like solving global warming. ( ;-) )  What clued clueless me into my faulty way of perceiving the situation was the number of times conflagrations felt,...to *me*,.... like only a funeral wake would alleviate the rift in the house.  Only to have my wife suddenly say in a fairly matter-of-fact tone "I'm starving...what's for dinner?...".   In other words, *she* was not perceiving the situation as anything more than venting frustration whereas I had a different take altogether.



All of this, only I haven't had decades yet and I'm not that good at it yet.

And for my own reasons, "the tirade" doesn't feel like any kind of request for support.  It feels like an immediate and urgent demand for action.  Which makes the subsequent responsive anger when actions are offered feel like betrayal.  Which leads to... nothing good.

 
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I'm afraid I really stink at the "listening ear" thing.  My sister has major depression (we both have bipolar disorder) and when she complains to me I offer suggestions, which one is NOT supposed to do to a depressive person, one is simply supposed to listen and be "supportive."  I don't know how to do that!  :O  
 
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:

But what I've come to realize is that it really only FEELS like they think that. Most of the time (at least for me in my experiences) they don't *actually* think they know better than me, they are just trying to be helpful because they care about me and want me to not be in distress about whatever it is we are talking about. HOWEVER, I think this stems from people being codependent as SHIT and not knowing how to be okay with the people they care about being in distress so they are *so* uncomfortable by your pain that they are taking great effort to get you *out* of pain when really they could maybe just sit with you and allow you to feel what you're going through and sort it out yourself, like a good therapist would. So really people just need to learn how to not take other people's distress and/or pain on and let people express themselves without telling them what to do UNLESS THEY SAY WHAT SHOULD I DO DUDE?  



I believe they often think if someone is telling them about a problem it is because that person is looking for an actual solution, and describing the problem is a request for input. That mindset is very common especially among men (because many men aren't comfortable discussing problems unless they want/need advice).

I have found the best solution is often to tell them outright exactly what you want (i.e. I just need to vent, and I appreciate you listening to me). Course now I will probably be accused of offering unsolicited advice. Apparently women often do it too!
 
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:
I have found the best solution is often to tell them outright exactly what you want (i.e. I just need to vent, and I appreciate you listening to me).



I love this, because it eliminates the need for "mind reading" which some people (I think maybe mostly women?) expect from others.  I try to eliminate the need for mind reading in my communications, because I am a horrible mind reader!
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Lucrecia Anderson wrote:
I have found the best solution is often to tell them outright exactly what you want (i.e. I just need to vent, and I appreciate you listening to me).



I love this, because it eliminates the need for "mind reading" which some people (I think maybe mostly women?) expect from others.  I try to eliminate the need for mind reading in my communications, because I am a horrible mind reader!



Yes, women often expect others (i.e. men) to be mind readers. Took me a while but I finally learned to just tell men outright so there is no misunderstanding.

Plus many men are "fixers" and they especially like to help/fix a problem that is bothering a woman (with the reward of having his knowledge/skills praised). IMO it is a wonderful male trait that should be highly encouraged.
 
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John Weiland wrote:
 What clued clueless me into my faulty way of perceiving the situation was the number of times conflagrations felt,...to *me*,.... like only a funeral wake would alleviate the rift in the house.  Only to have my wife suddenly say in a fairly matter-of-fact tone "I'm starving...what's for dinner?...".   In other words, *she* was not perceiving the situation as anything more than venting frustration whereas I had a different take altogether.

....And the schools still insist on "Gym" class instead of basic interpersonal relations! ....Doh!



This sounds SO familiar I remember a number of times when after my venting my husband would suddenly get all anxious and yell: "Well I guess we all have to kill ourselves then". I'd look at him in utter amazement and think he's not quite right in his mind. None of my girlfriends had ever responded like that to my venting. If anything, they'd get a bit bored and I'd notice that (without them having to say anything of course, in my typical mindreading fashion I'd just "sense" it   ) and I'd change the subject.

I couldn't agree with you more that basic interpersonal relations would be a great thing to add to the school curriculum. It's after all something we all need, regardless of our profession. And many families cannot teach even basic communication skills to children because the parents don't have them.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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John Weiland wrote:
It took me most of the decades of my marriage to learn.....i.e, be instructed time and again.....this simple fact.  In brief, and irrespective of whether or not it was my wife, a co-worker, or a friend, *ANY* outburst of frustration was **to ME** a plea to FIX the problem.  Learning that this was not always that case....that indeed "help" was often just providing a listening ear.....was a major breakthrough of education, but not necessarily of implementation.  I have a pretty good idea of where I obtained this knee-jerk reaction that outbursts needed to be met with 'rescuing action', but the bottom line is that is was something that became deeply ingrained.....and was utterly false!  



I think it is a biological trait and a well founded one at that. In a real crisis women want men that will take decisive action and FIX the problem; the men that display a high level of competence are rewarded with admiration and more opportunities for marriage/sex.

Never think of it as a "flaw", it is a very positive trait that should be appreciated/encouraged, and when only listening is needed that can be expressed in a positive way too.

It may also be a cultural thing (at least these days). Where I live men like to do things for women and they get ample praise in return. They always hold doors open for women and are rewarded with smiles and a thank you. If they see a woman struggling with something, or having a car problem, most are quick to run over and help, and they know they will be receive  gratitude and compliments in return. It is a win/win situation!
 
Nina Jay
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John Weiland wrote:offer a genuine "That sucks....I'm sorry to hear that.", and then ask in the aftermath, "How would you like to have this problem addressed and over what time-line?"  



I'll return to John Weiland's fantastic post once more, because I think this deserves more attention.

I feel it would help communication tremendeously if we (myself included!) remembered to start with "That sucks" or some version of it, before giving advice. I think a lot of the time people are mainly looking for empathy and advice is secondary consideration. Even if they're not looking for empathy, only advice, I still think it probably wouldn't hurt to start with "That sucks" if someone is describing a problem.

Once the emotional need to be heard & to have your feelings understood is met, people are often less particular about what exact words are used in offering solutions. I think even "shoulding" wouldn't be so bad if it was preceded by a genuine and blame-free recognition of the other one's difficult situation.
 
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