General Question

KatawaGrey's avatar

How do you respond to the friend who tries to be logical at you when you are having a bad time?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21433points) December 16th, 2010

We all have those friends hopefully few who are more worried about pointing out the flaws in your anger, sadness or confusion than trying to make you feel better or listening to you. These may be good friends of yours, but when you’re on the verge of tears, you don’t want these people around.

So, fluther, how do you respond to these people when you are sad, angry or confused?

Yes, something personal prompted this question, but I’d rather not talk about it until after I’ve read a few responses.

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27 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Be happy that someone has enough interest in your issues to try to help. To have any other reaction is selfish.

trumi's avatar

I’m usually the aforementioned-logical-friend. I try to listen, but often cannot help but give advice. It’s just my nature. For me, what has been really helpful is the recognition of a good person, regardless of whether or not they say what they mean. If I know a person well enough to know what the mean, even if their words/actions aren’t perfect, then I try to focus on that meaning. I do my best to return that same respect and understanding.

The_Inquisitor's avatar

If I was on the verge of tears, and just experienced something horrible, and someone tries to speak sense into me, or rudely points out flaws, etc, as you say, I would ask them to leave me alone to think about it on my own. That, or just sob uncontrollably… But if they’re going to rub it in, it’d probably be best if they left..

MissAnthrope's avatar

If I’m able to form coherent sentences, I’ll tell them as nicely as possible that I appreciate their advice, but what I really need at that moment is listening, support, and maybe sympathy.

tinyfaery's avatar

I would just say thanks for trying to help, but you are making it worse. If the person continued I would ask them to leave me alone.

I just want to make the point that some people believe pointing out irrationality or telling people what they are doing wrong is actually helpful. Some people don’t know any other way to behave when people get emotional.

absalom's avatar

This is partly the reason I have never (never) gone to a friend in bad times. Any concern they’d show would be false because it’s not as if they’d be able to understand something as irrational as extreme emotion unless they’re experiencing it simultaneously. Logic and anger have after all nothing to do with one another. And to introduce rationalism to such moments is to more or less ruin the Bad Times Parade that we more often prefer to cultivate than extirpate (mixed metaphor, sorry). Which sounds like an indictment, but it’s not; you’re right to want to wallow occasionally in the intensity of your emotions. Just make sure that when you go to a friend for comfort next time, you’re actually looking for comfort and not justification.

(Not an indictment and I sincerely hope you feel better very soon, within the hour, if you’re ready, etc., but really.)

Preemptive edit: I thought I posted this like several posts ago but it seems not to have shown up. Anyway.

Jeruba's avatar

They’re trying to help. Sometimes you just have to redirect their good intentions. I have learned to ask for the kind of help I want: “I just need you to listen right now and be sympathetic. When I start to feel better, I’ll work on solving this myself.” [or ”...then I’ll be happy to have your help in thinking about solutions.”]

I’ve also learned which people not to talk to when I feel bad.

[Edit] This analysis and advice-giving is a typically male approach to a problem, although not, of course, exclusively so (and there is a time for logical solutions). But I find that a man can be trained at least to ask “Do you want advice, or do you just want me to listen?” Bless the man who can master this simple preface. Help means doing what’s needed; if you don’t first try to find out what’s needed, you may not be helping.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have never been able to listen to a friend tell me their tale of woe without offering some logical solutions. If anyone wants to continue to be my friend, they will understand that and only come to me for solutions.

Doppelganger19's avatar

My first instinct is usually to try to “fix” the person’s problem. It’s a penchant that hasn’t served me particularly well. :(

augustlan's avatar

I’ve had two husbands who were pros at advice giving, and had NO CLUE how to actually help me when I was upset. Here’s what I told both of them, repeatedly:

When I am crying, this is what I need from you: Hug me, tell me you love me, and assure me that everything will be alright. Later, we can talk about solutions. Hug, love, assure. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It took many repetitions, but both eventually got the idea. If this person isn’t a fixture in your life, I like @Jeruba‘s wording better.

@YARNLADY If you want to continue to be their friend, why not understand what they need and only offer that?

KatawaGrey's avatar

@YARNLADY: I would say it’s equally selfish to not care about your friend having a bad time. But, good for you if you don’t have to listen to people tell you about their pathetic problems!

@absalom: I do know what you mean about the wallowing. I rarely expect people to agree with me when I’m in a bad mood. Mostly, I just want to go, “This fucking sucks!” and then go watch a movie or something. I don’t expect or want other people to solve my problems, I just need to verbalize them sometimes. :)

@all: Thank you for your solutions. I think the best thing is just to simply tell them that I do not want to hear their logical solutions and absent myself from their company.

@Jeruba: I think you’re right. More often than not, when I speak to a good male friend about this, he’ll have no idea what to do so he spouts advice. Sometimes, I have to stop him and go, “Don’t say that! I just need flap my arms and be irrational right now. All I need you to do is nod, listen and put a movie in! I’ll be back to normal soon!”

YARNLADY's avatar

@augustlan @KatawaGrey I am categorically unable to offer the type of touchy-feely help some people might need. I can only respond to a cry for help by offering logical suggestions. This is at odds with what some people need, and I cannot offer them what I don’t have.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I get frustrated with people who tell me how to feel, as in “don’t fell bad.” Or, they point out that the situation is, in part, my own fault because I was too nice/I should have known/I waited too long/ignored the signs, etc.

I usually tell them that they are not being helpful, and are making me feel worse. I try to correctly label my emotions: frustrated/disappointed/angered/put out/taken advantage of can all feel the same at times.

Eggie's avatar

I can completely relate…...Its irritating when people steal your thunder like that, especially when you are feeling that bad…even though its good for you. Its like taking buckeleys cough mixture i guess.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I think @KatawaGrey may be referring to a conversation we had the other day about this very thing. I had a really bad day last week, verge of tears all day, sometimes you just need to feel sad. I didn’t want anyone to fix it, I just wanted to come out the other side. Fortuneately, I have a wonderful friend who understood that I needed to feel sad for awhile, listened to me, made soothing noises, and those actions chased the dragons back into their lair. I don’t want to be told that I have nothing to feel sad about, that my life is great, that I should be grateful for all I have, I KNOW all that!! Sometimes a sad day is just a sad day, and balances things out. A friend who understands that is a pearl beyond price.
Wow, I feel better now!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Listen to your mom, put on some quiet music, and make a cup of tea or hot chocolate. (Nothing stronger although it’s tempting). Tell the person you need your space and think it through.

mattbrowne's avatar

“Can we talk about solutions tomorrow? Today I need somebody who can understand my emotions without looking for reasons. That’s all.”

It took me 30 years to realize this. A wise woman once recommended it to me.

Scooby's avatar

Simple!! I lock the door & switch off the phone, then I immerse myself in my own self pity until one of the cats comes along & reminds me there’s not just me to worry about…. Then I snap out of it & give my sister a call…. I know I’ll be in for a beating but she has away of setting me straight.. I’m not one for mamby pamby, I prefer to hear it warts & all & my sis is the only one I can bear to hear it from! :-/

Good luck! for what it’s worth ;-)

JLeslie's avatar

Generally men like to fix things and don’t understand venting just for the sake of saying something out loud. Women, generally, need to talk out their emotions. Men seem to have less tolerance for emotion, so they want to fix you up fast so you feel better. Good intentions usually, but isn’t what everyone is looking for. Sometimes we want to feel sad. It is our way of grieving whatever dissappointment is happening in our lives.

I agree if it is someone who you want to be able to share your thoughts with, tell them up front you just want to be heard, no advice right now. If it is a friend, but you have other friends, don’t tell the one who never makes you feel supported, choose someone else.

BoBo1946's avatar

Those kind of friends you don’t need. If my friend is sad, I’m sad… If my friend is angry, I’m angry. My friend needs my support, not my criticism. @KatawaGrey they are not friends.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

And get your rest. You’re up late from the timing of your question.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I love how almost everyone here is stepping up to support my kid!

noodle_poodle's avatar

well quite a lot of peoples answers on this seem pretty harsh while admit that some of the advice givers are just trying to help if they continue to point things out to someone who is upset to a point that adds to it then they arnt that great a friend. I think that in order to really be a good friend you have to understand a little bit about what the other person might need from you and if thats occasionally to just let them rant and join in with a few “yeh the fuckers!” I really dont think thats a lot to ask. People who come to you when they are upset are often just explaining to you why they are upset so that you will understand and to get if off their chests…if they specifically ask for your advice then fine it give to them. Also depending on the situation when you go about pointing things out they are most likely well aware of their own situation/logic probably more than you are and you will be patronizingly pointing out things they already know. It always irks me people say oh well thats just my nature so people can just deal with it…so you expect people to understand you but will not bother to try and learn the same for others? If you dont have time for a little understanding to your important people I feel truly sorry for you when the day comes that you need a little understanding yourself and you suddenly find theres no one around to it give it to you.

Judi's avatar

Most people I know, know that I will point out that my feelings are my feelings. They do not have to be rational to be valid. Emotions come and go and I am free to express and process them. I tend to be pretty blunt and tell someone who doesn’t know me well enough to realize this that I will not tolerate them invalidating my feelings. When I am in a different emotional state, we can discuss ration and reason.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I need and expect that out of my friends as much as I expect them to support my emotions. I firmly believe that if I am allowed to get in deeper and deeper into self-pity or anger or what have you that it will not at all be productive for me later. I know a couple of friends that I can count to get behind me and only be biased in my direction but they’re not the ones that I will ultimately ask for advice. The ones I will ask for advice will be objective, will know my flaws anyhow and will direct me in the right way because they know I know some of what I’m feeling is irrational anyhow, they don’t have to point it out but they will not let me remain unfair or unjust in my emotions. As far as how I am to people, I think I listen and ask them what they need of me and provide whatever they request but they, too, can also count on me to remain objective and let them know where they’re being wrong, if they need me too. If any of this is unsolicited, it’s not right, however.

wundayatta's avatar

They say this is a male/female difference, and I guess it probably is, on average, but I’ve found that it goes both ways. Sure, my instinct to a crying woman is to ask “what’s wrong,” and then, if they are stupid enough to tell me, to proceed to try to fix the problem. But I have learned over the years to hold back my anxiety (I tend to assume that I am the cause of the problem), put my arm around her and let her cry. Turns out that a lot of the time, she doesn’t even know what’s wrong.

But I backslide. Earlier this week I picked up my wife to drive her home, and a few minutes later she was crying. Well, a crying woman is hard to take at anytime, but it’s worse in a car because you have to keep driving since, in our case, we had to pick up the kids before they turned into pumpkins.

So the old instinct came up: “What’s wrong.”
“The stress from work is getting to me…”

I started to ask another question, and then I realized what I was doing, so I shut up, and tried to put my glove on her glove every once in a while when I could spare a hand. God is it hard to stop yourself from working on a problem.

A day or so later, we actually discussed it during counselling a little. We heard her talk about what work is stressing her (she needs to do more work than anyone else), and, well, that was that. I encouraged her to take her boss’ offer to give her some help. She feels she’s letting down the team if she does take help. I swear, the woman is addicted to stress. Her choice, I guess. Although I suppose I could point out the effect it has on the rest of us.

I learned all this partly through experience with my wife and partly through reading. My wife didn’t know what was going on, either, at the beginning of our relationship. Gradually, she figured it out, and told me, in one way or another, to shut up. “Just hold me.” “Hold my hand.” “Hug me.” “Be patient.” “Sometimes I don’t know why I’m crying so it’s useless to interrogate me.”

So now I have a general rule of thumb, but here’s the irony. I my process of trying to be a sensitive man, and more importantly, since I’ve gotten sick, my emotions have wound their way to my sleeve. I get much sadder and more quickly sadder when I hear of someone in trouble compared to before. Now, the cycle has come around 180 degrees. I’m the one who just wants to be held or comforted, and she’s the one who wants to solve problems!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I try to excuse myself to go be alone and sulk or mend. Really.

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