Friday, April 5, 2013

Why You Never Tell Others Your Problems

Stick with me on this one because it isn't going to seem "right" at first, but if you focus on the angle I'm approaching this topic at, you'll see the point I'm trying to make.

Everybody has problems.  And everybody has friends.  And part of having friends or loved ones is to share your problems.  You need a sounding board, you need to vent, and doing such things are healthy and expected.  However, when you unload and vent, it is usually problems that are not dire, nor insurmountable.  You got a cold, you boss is being a jerk, the weather sucks, whatever, they all have an end and a solution, and are thus surmountable. 

But then there are problems that are terminal. There is no solution.  There is only one outcome.  There is no end.  And if there is one, the cost is not only great, but nothing can be done to stop it.  Things like terminal sickness, bankruptcy, divorce, etc.  And it is here you need to be very selfless and think this one through.

Say the economy has gone south and you are imminently approaching bankruptcy.  There is nothing you can do about it.  It is going to happen.  It is outside of your control.

Do you tell your friends about it?  Do you complain to your loved ones about it?

The answer is no, and let me explain why.

Just as you are powerless to stop this horrible thing from happening, so to are your friends and loved ones.  And in complaining to them or telling them about your unsolvable problem, you put them at unease because they are powerless and helpless to do anything about it.  It is human nature to want to help, but if help is just not possible you unconsciously make your friends feel uncomfortable and powerless.

For example, have you ever had a friend whose loved one got cancer, or your friend got cancer him/herself?  And upon hearing the news you don't know what to say because, well, what can you say?  "I'm sorry?"

That's about all you can do.  You are completely helpless and thus have nothing to say.

Worse still, you can exacerbate this situation, with your "terminal" problem.  Because of the severity of these terminal problems, you don't just mention it once to your friends and then it goes away.  It's a terminal problem, it will be with you until it terminates.  And because of it's severity, it is going to be the single largest topic weighing heavily on your mind.  You will want to tell somebody about it, in perhaps a subconscious attempt to find a non-existent solution, but all you will do is drive them further away because you make it so uncomfortable.

Now, am I saying, you NEVER tell anybody you got cancer or that you filed for bankruptcy or your spouse left you?  No, but I am saying once you make the declaration, there is nothing to gain by revisiting your unsolvable problem with friends and loved ones.

However, if this doesn't make sense, consider something on the flip side or opposite of this.  Say you achieved something REALLY great.  Something phenomenal.  Something nobody else has done.  Naturally this great achievement means a lot to you and even defines you.  And if it truly is great, you will want to share it with people, not out of bragging, but out of wanting to share something of genuine interest.  But here too you face a somewhat similar problem.  If your achievement is so great, most people won't even believe you did it, or at least be able to comprehend.  For example by the time I was a senior in college I had:

1.  Paid for everything working full time going to school full time
2.  Was on track to graduate 6 months early.
3.  3.96 GPA
4.  3 Internships under my belt
5.  Held various performance records at my job

I thought I was a shoe-in for a job after graduating, but in hindsight, I believe what I achieved was so great, nobody believed it and my resume went in the dump.  Even my friends didn't seem impressed in my early 20's and so when meeting new people I would never mention this great achievement.  I would just say, "I went to college."

In short the lesson is to consider the position your friends and loved ones are in.  They are already your friends, they are already your loved ones, but unless it is within their power to do anything, constantly bringing up major problems you have (no matter how much they are affecting your life) only pushes people further away.  Love and appreciate your friends and loved ones, be selfless enough not to hound them with your unsolvable problems.

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