To Each His Own

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If you’re anything like me, then you do your best to be a good listener.  When someone is going through a rough time or they have a problem they want to vent about, you try to be there for them.  You let them talk through their tensions and you make an honest effort to understand the situation.  In most cases, the hard to dodge “what do you think” or “what should I do” questions will pop up.  The spotlight is put on you and your credentials are put to the test.  This is when you’re judgement as a friend is highlighted and how willing your friend is to hear what others have to say is measured.

I usually start off by giving my general basic opinion.  I say enough to take my stance, but hold back what can be considered too honest.  You want to be helpful, not harsh.  You also don’t want to dictate what your friend will do.  This is their issue, so they should solve it however they want.  Plus, your friend is looking for an unbiased answer, at least if they really want help, so you need to filter through whatever personal emotions you might have.

Eventually, either the problem will go away of those two dreadful questions will be asked again.  By this point, the person seeking your advice already knows where you stand, but they’re too confused to not ask for your guidance a second time, so what should you do?  Restate what you said the first time, except this time take away some of the sugar from your words.  Maybe with a more serious reality check, your friend will take a step forward, rather than sitting and complaining about it some more.  They need to know that your advice hasn’t changed and if they don’t change what they do, neither will their situation.

Again, two things can happen.  Either your friend has taken some sort of initiative to solve their problem or their back to square one.  You, like before, will be playing the role of therapist, so you’ll be forced to listen and give advice… again, but, at this point, it’s time to get real.  State your advice as clearly and directly as possible.  Your opinion hasn’t changed, yet you keep on being asked to repeat it, so make sure to remain firm this third time around.  You’ve tried to be patient and understanding, but three strikes and you’re out.  If your friend turns to you again, don’t even bother wasting more of your energy on the situation.  I know it’s tough to resist helping someone you care about, but you have to look out for yourself, too.  Don’t let people abuse you by asking for your opinion and then blatantly disregarding it.  That only shows how little they care about what you have to say.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned that a person will never do something they truly don’t want to do.  No matter how many times you try to reason with a person for them to better their self and their life, if they don’t want to, they won’t hear a word you say.  Your words will go in one ear and right out the other.  Better yet, you’ll just be blatantly shut out.  You have to learn to recognize when a person isn’t willing to listen, for your own sake.  Trust me, I’ve had to learn that the hard way.  If someone turns to you for help, by all means give them a hand, but, if their request is done in vain, why even waste your time?  They’ll make a change when they are truly ready for one.

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About Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the mainland United States, I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and am a 2016 VONA Voices Alumna. I currently perform spoken-word in the greater Washington D.C. area and have previously performed in Philadelphia, Miami, and the Dominican Republic. Most recently, I have been published in Public Pool, Spillwords, and The Acentos Review, and Here Comes Everyone: East & West Issue.

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