I just read an article titled, “5 ways to be a better friend,” written by assorted “experts” including a 9-year old girl (who I consider the most qualified.) Nothing really new here – honestly, felt like more of a space filler but the number one thing really caught my eye.
1. Stop giving advice
This nugget of wisdom is from a psychologist who suggests just responding by asking, “That sounds difficult. How do you feel about it?” (He is also pushing a book about narcissism and don’t get me started on the irony of a psychologist writing a book on that topic.)
All I can say is, “Are you fucking kidding me?” That is exactly the kind of lame ass response a psychologist gives but not the kind of candid and honest feedback you want from friends. I count on my friends for mass amounts of both solicited and unsolicited advice. But, it’s often the latter that is more important because sometimes you can’t see that a.) you’re being a jackass b.) those pants do nothing for your ass c.) you’re in too deep to see something clearly or d) you’re (God forbid) wrong.
When I talk to my friends, sometimes it's clear that I need to vent and lots of crap spews forth. Work, family, parenting and stupid people are common topics. My friends commiserate, share a similar experience, offer advice and make me feel less alone or at least less like a serial killer. Other times, our conversations are clearly a dialogue about something one of us is facing.
If I’m really mad about something and talking to a friend, who responded, “How do you feel about it?” I would respond, “I’m fucking pissed you moron, I just said so.” Offer me a different perspective, agree with me, disagree with me, advise me – but don’t ask about me how I feel. We’re friends and I just told you.
Now T can be the Switzerland of advice while M is the Queen of Logic. L is the ball of emotion that I can virtually always count on to go the exact same emotion I am feeling. It’s really a great mix and to give credit to each – they can and do often fill different roles. M talked me through when I realized I needed to move away from CA – she offered logic and concrete suggestions. T supported my decisions, asked good questions and confirmed my approach was sound. L was just thrilled I was going to meet some personal goals.
To be clear, there are many times when a friend vents to me and I respond with a neutral, “I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?” But, it’s because that is the most appropriate response and I honestly want to do something if I can. But, if a better response is, “Are you doing this or have your tried that?” and that will generate better conversation and maybe help a friend through a challenging time, you bet your ass I’m gonna do that. I expect them to do the same.
You know, I think I’ll stick with the 9-year’s advice from this article, which was number 5 on the list and was: Act like a 9-year old. And what she means is to work harder at seeing your friends. Her advice sounds a whole lot better. Smart girl.