Dear Eeyore

A friend of mine once told me that when most women talk to others about their problems what they want is sympathy, and that when most men talk about their problems what they want is advice. This leads to complications as women talk to men hoping for sympathy and and receive what they perceive as "being told what to do." I don't know how true or untrue this is in general, but with me specifically I know that I compuslively respond with advice, and have to remember to voice my sympathy. I'm not sure if that comes off any better.

"Gosh, that really sucks. (How do you actually communicate sympathy?) I remember when this vaguely similar thing happened to me how much that sucked, so I know what it's like to have something suck, and that sucks. (Too much information? Trying to even the emotional field here? This isn't some kind of competition. More honest sympathy needed.) I'm really sorry to hear this sucky thing is happened to you. (Not exactly sympathetic, but indicates I'm trying.) [Pause for one breath or drink.] (Whew, interpersonal obligations fulfilled, now for the advice.) Here's the first thing I can think of to solve the situation. (Gosh you should have figured that out for yourself.)"

See what I mean? The heart wants to help heal, but the brain wants to help solve and sometimes it sounds like the asshole. Life is hard.

2007.12.18 at 11:00am EST