Outsiders

Have you ever noticed that when you talk to others about your frustrations in life that everyone has an opinion?

I’ve thought a lot about this recently and based on my observations I am not the only individual who tackles this problem on a fairly consistent basis.  I typically do not write so late at night, but the thoughts were just rolling through my mind and I found myself staring into my dark abyss of a bedroom more or less writing this piece in my head.

It seems as if no matter what topic of conversation comes up everyone is an expert on..well..everything.  You can talk to the same individual about work challenges, relationship woes, family disagreements, health problems, time management issues, trouble sleeping, and the list perpetuates itself.

To keep this fairly simple (ok nothing about this topic is simple, but I am going to try!) I am going to write this based on the vantage point of an individual speaking with a friend.  It’s just simpler that way.  If I write about speaking to family, coworkers, spouses, or strangers this would probably end up being multiple posts. 

The problem with voicing our troubles is that the person we are conversing with does not know all of the variables that relate to the topic at hand.  The next problem is that they may not even fully understand the variables or depth of the variables.  Honestly, most of the time, we are right there with that person.  Often we don’t realize other factors until they are blatantly in our faces.  For example, we may not consciously make ourselves aware of how past experiences, personal biases, faith (or lack thereof), etc. have an impact on the problem at hand.

See? Problems from the starting line on both ends! 🙂

This is not a post blaming one party or the other.  Each person has a responsibility and level of understanding to meet in these situations.

I am not saying that you don’t discuss your problems with anyone. Ever. As human beings we typically feel the need to express ourselves from time to time without internalizing everything.  If we did that our brains may just hemorrhage trying to solve the world’s problems on our own. Okay, maybe not the world’s problems, but at the very least, our own.  If you’re like me, you believe them to be the world’s problems with as many people who endure the same hardships of life, no matter how inevitably trivial. 

There was a point in my life last year and into the beginning of this year that I was severely depressed.  I felt as if I had more problems than I could solve; and they were all bigger than my mind could handle. I found myself distancing myself from people, internalizing problems, and avoiding conversation. 

Why?

Because of this topic of this post.  I was tried of trying to have honest discussions with people I considered close.  I was tired of listening to them paint of picture of how to so easily solve my problems that I envisioned a beautifully wrapped box with a satin ribbon.  This box no longer contained a problem but a solution by the time the conversation had ended.  I found myself getting defensive and battling heated arguments.  I did all this because it was just so easy for someone on the outside to tell me how to do things.  How to do them right. How to fix a problem (these people were so good they offered solutions to things I didn’t even believe were a problem!).

Tell me if this sounds like a familiar part of a conversation. Some of this may seem like an exaggeration.  If you’ve experienced this, then you know that is exactly how it sounds sometimes.  This is not a personal snippet of conversation I have had with someone either.  I am simply writing an example that tries to reach various people with various situations.  However, I’ve had very similar conversations.

Person A: “You know, I just feel so overwhelmed right now.  I’ve got this big assignment to do for ethics by next Monday, my job just gave me a project to complete by this Friday, I need to get the oil changed in my car this week because it’s already 2,000 miles overdue, the water heater broke and I need to pay bills so I have to pick up extra hours at work on top of everything else, and I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep because I’ve been putting in late nights to get work done because I’ve been on conference calls all week and haven’t been able to work at my desk.  My mother has been in the hospital sick so I’ve been going to her house to help her take care of things since she’s been out, and my husband’s family keeps calling about scheduling the family reunion! Then next week…” (You get the point by now).

Person B: “I don’t know how you do it.  You should tell your husband that it’s his responsibility to schedule things with his family and he needs to pick up the slack around the house because you are wearing yourself down.  Also, make sure you ask the professor for an extension on that project, he will understand.  If he doesn’t then he’s a [insert whatever name you want]. I’m sorry about your mom. Is she ok? How long is she going to be out? Are you still going to be able to come to my [insert event here]? Have you talked to your boss about relieving some of your responsibilities? I don’t understand why he can’t delegate to other people.  Surely, there is someone else that can do your job. Better yet, why isn’t HE doing some of this?  This sounds like work he should be doing himself.  Maybe if he wasn’t out playing golf with all the big wigs he could actually be in the office!”

The problem is that Person A does not have the time or desire to fully explain all the details of her growing list of problems.  Now in reality this would obviously be a dialogue.  Person A didn’t mention that her husband has been taking on more of the housework but has also taken more hours at work to help pay for the growing expenses, that her company is making cutbacks and her family can’t afford for her to lose her job, and that she needs to do well in her classes in order to get her degree to help her meet the requirements of her job, and that family scheduling falls on her simply because her husband is bad at remember dates times.

Person B who happens to be a someone close friend has no idea how hectic her friend’s schedule is.  All person B knows is that they don’t schedule lunches and nights out very often anymore.  She talks with her friend and knows some of the details but feels so subconsciously obligated to help and make her friend feel better that she needs to offer advice. 

Trust me. I’ve had PLENTY of these conversations. I’m not saying my friends were flippantly giving advice to shut me up.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Most of what was said came from a good place.  They made an honest effort to help me see that I could alleviate some of these stressors.  There were times that I found the advice helpful.  However, most times it was just watered-down, simplistic, one-size-fits-all statements that got me nowhere except defensive, frustrated, and irritated.

After numerous conversations and countless reflections I realize that a small amount of responsibility and understanding is placed (and should be) on the person we are speaking to.  The rest should be placed upon ourselves.  GASP!

I say this because no one really understands your life except you.  You understand your beliefs, values, amount of time you have in a day, level of responsibility you have to your job and family, how your finances are going, how well you feel, and what you are able to realistically accomplish in a day better than anyone.  Even if you sat down and basically explained everything in as much detail as possible, the other person wouldn’t truly be able to comprehend it like you can.  Therefore it is our responsibility to understand that the people we are talking to do not know you like you know you.  It is our responsibility to set up boundaries, explain the best we can, and not become frustrated and defensive with others.  It is our responsibility to know how to gracefully and respectfully back out of a conversation.  It is our responsibility to take the information given to us and discriminate the good advice from the bad advice. We also have to realize that most of the time (I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions) we cannot hold another person’s poor advice against them.  Most people we talk to aren’t deliberately trying to sabotage our lives.  They tried. You listened. It failed.

I write this because I know that these conversations usually don’t bother an individual when happening on sporadic, infrequent basis.  I write this because we all reach a point in our lives every so often where life tends to pile up on itself.  I write this because I found that distancing people in these times is dangerous.  Not only do you have your problems, but you have loneliness to add to the mix.  Loneliness when you need the support the most only seems to add insult to injury.  Be social, talk about things that bother you, just take responsibility for it.  Apply the same principle to this as you would the phrase, “Don’t ask a question that you[ don’t want to hear the answer to.”

For example, I understand that I just cannot talk to ALL of my friends about EVERYTHING.  Some give more honest and objective advice about things than others.  There are friends that I just don’t talk to about my relationship with (That’s for another post), some friends I don’t talk about diet and exercise with, others I don’t really speak of my family to.  For the most part, it has created stronger friendships and less tension.  Pressure has been relieved.  I feel better that I don’t have so much conflicting advice and that I don’t have to tell my story so many times.  It leaves more time for lighthearted conversation and good times also. 🙂

Sorry this post was quite long but it’s a fairly in depth topic when you really think about it.  I believe that so much more could be said about this but I will leave you to ponder what that could be. 

 

Heather

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~ by huskiepawz07 on September 7, 2013.

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