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The Difference Between Someone Who Wants Advice, and Someone Who Wants to be Heard

This blog was archived from August 20, 2015.

There's a quote I heard recently from Paulo Coelho: A mistake repeated more than once is a decision.

Those who know me best know that I am not one to spend too much energy dwelling on a problem. There's a problem? Let's solve it! Sometimes things cannot be solved, but this doesn't mean there wasn't a solution. I do tend to get a little upset about this, since this one involves people who are not willing to see the error of their ways and they get stuck on their feelings and the problems never go away. It's people. People who are not willing to take a step back and analyze a situation.

I've learned throughout the years that we're all wired differently. I have this habit when a friend comes to me with a problem, whether it's a problem with a loved one or a co-worker or a friend, I listen but I figure they are telling me because they want to solve it. So I give them the solutions! I give them advice on how to go about fixing their problems.

You should leave him because ________.

You should tell them ______ and then _____ and if they still won't listen then _______.

You know, words like that. I felt that the advice I gave was solid and usually the person on the other end will nod and agree and leave feeling so much better because they were able to talk about their problems and get things off their chest. Then weeks would go by, and they would be stuck in the same rut. And the counseling continues. It's quite frustrating, right?!

I have a problem!

Hey! I have a solution!

Oh.. umm... okay, thanks...?

Will you try it out?

Umm... maybe?

I would react in the worst way, which was feeling offended. Why does this person keep coming to me with their problems, if they never want to fix it? I would be troubled by this and after the 3rd or 4th time hearing the same story, my ears literally couldn't take it anymore and I would be very short with them and pretty much tell them not to drop all of their problems on me if they weren't going to do anything about it. Stop asking for advice and then going back to the same routine!

But then it dawned on me. This person is not looking for advice. They're just looking to be heard. They have no intention of leaving their idiot boyfriends or no intention of ever confronting an evil co-worker (no, it's far better to just bad-mouth this person until their dying day than ever confront, right?! -_-) .. they don't want help. They just want their ears tickled. They want you to console them and tell them they're fantastic and everything will be alright. I can only take so much of this, honestly.

I'm 30 now, and call me impatient, but I feel as though I do not have the time or care for people who are like this. I at least know that about myself. If you wanna be consoled and don't want advice but you want to continue this pattern of "diarrhea of the mouth" where you spill all of your worries on to someone else, well friends, you have to prep the person you are talking to, before you offend them. Personally I would rather debate my 5 year old about why she cannot have gummy worms for dinner instead of listening to the same problems from you, but at least prep me. To those like me, who get frustrated by those around you who refuse to change their situations but constantly want to talk about it, I want to encourage you to press on and even if it makes you cringe, continue to be that listening ear. By the 3rd or 4th time, just listen and nod. Smile every now and then and if you're a believer like me, pray for that person. It can't be you to fix it, the fixing needs to come from within. I want to tell you that it is extremely difficult, but you are not alone. We all know that sometimes, unfortunately, people need to fall flat on their faces before they turn their lives around. It's painful to watch from the outside, especially when you know that all it takes is a DRIVE in someone to want better for themselves, to pick themselves up and say "no more! NO MORE!" I am telling you, be still, continue to listen to them and be a shoulder to cry on. It's tough to hear, but your wise words and guidance are not wanted.

It doesn't pay to be mean to that person. You will end up feeling like a jerk even if you told them the truth. The person you are trying to communicate with likely bases their decisions on emotions, so the last thing you need to do is hurt their feelings, you know, by telling the truth. Maybe just smile, nod, and rub their backs a little. If anything they will leave thinking, "wow, she really sucks at giving advice!" But hey, that's worth it for the next time around, which may or may not happen anymore, since all you do is smile, nod, and rub their back. Or pat their shoulder. I like to pat the shoulder actually. Yeah, that's more my style.

If you are the person who likes to be heard, here is how you should approach your friends who are really good at giving advice:

Hey Susie, I know we've talked about this over and over, and I already know what I should do to make this situation better, but I really just want to whine again, and it would mean a lot to me if I could whine to you.

Ha! Maybe in a perfect world. But know yourself. If you know that the situation you are about to complain about requires no immediate solution, then perhaps keep it to yourself? Or seek out a real, licensed therapist. Not your friend. Not your friend who has had to listen to this 100 times to where they no longer feel bad for your situation, but they feel bad for you. Know that your behavior shows ignorance, stubbornness, and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Just spend the few minutes in self-reflection. Sometimes the mistake is not a mistake anymore, it's a decision you made. Let that sink in.

If confronting people is a fear of yours, please refer to a blog I posted about getting better at confronting, since it's not something you should fear.

I've had my own self-reflection lately in this topic. If someone comes to me with a headache, I offer them headache medicine. If someone tells me they're hungry, I offer them food. So naturally, if someone comes to me with a problem, if it's something I can solve, I come to them with a solution. I've never had someone turn away headache medicine and tell me, "no, no thanks Talia, I wanna just deal with this headache." Or, "No.. I mean, I'm hungry but I don't want to eat, even if you set the food in front of me." I have to come to terms with the fact that when it comes to people and their problems, there are those who do not want the medicine. They want to sit there and dwell on their issues and continue to blame the world and everyone else for their situation. It's absolutely bizarre, I hope my children grow up to be problem-solvers and shoulders to lean on.

Your friends will be thankful if you came to them from an honest place so that now they don't have to get too involved or invested in a situation you refuse to pull yourself out of. Susie will kind of love you for it. Am I the only Susie in the world? ;)

All content and images copyright Talia Likeitis ©2015 and cannot be used without expressed permission.

Photography by: Jeff

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