In Nan and Billy’s house it goes like this:
Nan: I wish I could find a cause to get into, maybe volunteering or just doing something worth-while.
Billy: So call the College Club – I heard they need help, and the hospital gift shop might be looking for volunteers.
Nan: Forget it, you don’t even know what I’m interested in.
Billy: Geez! Why bring it up if you don’t want my opinion?
Billy means well, and his ideas might be valid, but Nan finds his approach annoying. In giving advice you anoint yourself as an authority, and if no one asked for it, you come across as know-it-all. More important, like many women, Nan is seeking emotional strokes, not solutions, from her partner. She wants Billy simply to understand and appreciate her problem. This doesn’t figure to Billy or to many men who consider belaboring woes a waste of time. He wants her to take action, while she wants a comforting reaction.
If you play Billy’s part repeatedly in your household, with Nan’s retort, you need to drop the role of advisor. Here are some ideas for not compounding your partner’s anguish.
From Solution Man to Solace Man
– Trust that when she wants your advice, she’ll ask for it. Chances are, she feels capable of saying “I want to hear your opinion” or “Can I get some advice on this?”
– When you feel advice coming to your lips, substitute a response she’ll find more helpful, such as:
- Restating what she said or feels in a different way: “Sounds like you’re not feeling overloaded any more.”
- Relating a similar incident: “That’s how I felt when we first moved here.”
- Really listening: Just hear her out, nod, and show interest.
- Raising a question: Get her moving in the direction of a solution, but let her provide the answer, not you: “What kind of volunteering interests you?” “So what are some of the options?”
- Reassuring : “That’s great. I’m sure there are lots of places that could use your talents.”
Warning: If you‘ve been playing solution man for ages, withdrawal symptoms – anxiety, fidgeting, tongue cramps – may accompany your attempt to learn new lines. Take a deep breath. Advice addiction is only in your mind.