Friday, May 29, 2015
Solving Other People's Problems
After just running into a post about lessons learned from challenging life situations combined with difficult people (and I thought it was a good post), I was inspired to write my own post as a kind of "spin-off" on the theme or life's problems/challenges/difficult times. Since the real message in my own post here isn't really directly related to the subject of the post that inspired me, I thought it might be more appropriate to write a separate post. The post that inspired this one was about how people often need a friend most when they least deserve one. It was also, however, about trying to be understanding of others in difficult times.
When people go through particularly challenging times (maybe family upheaval and chaos of one kind or another, or else just difficult times as individuals) it can seem as the world is always out there, waiting to give advice about what someone should be doing to solve his problems. Some advice-givers (sometimes more "second-guessers-of-others' problems") are more patient than others with regard to how long they'll keep offering advice before they become disgusted with the person who doesn't "just... (fill in the blanks with whatever 'solution' has been offered)'; and pretty much writes off the individual with the not-so-easily solved problem/challenges.
When it comes to advice and/or "telling other people how to solve their problems", I've known more than one person who has dealt with difficult times and who has said, "It's always easier to solve someone else's problems." I've also known a person or two who has made that statement (sometimes jokingly, sometimes with sarcasm, sometimes in frustration) and then gone on to be the person who gives advice to someone else and doesn't understand why it is that "someone else" won't just do whatever it is the observer thinks he should do in order to eliminate one or another problem.
Worse, if the recipient of the advice and "fairly simple solution" explains why it is that particular solution won't/can't work for him advice-givers of all walks of life can be prone to accusing the other person as "putting up roadblocks". That's a common term, and I suspect it may come from any number of the self-help books about "how to live life" that have been out there over the last few decades (and these days that have passed down and/or regurgitated on one Internet site or another).
It's bad enough that people who haven't found themselves with problems and with advice that's only "from the books" but that may not necessarily be appropriate or workable to then have to deal with the contempt and disgust of advice-givers on top of everything else. It's also, however, disgusting to be the person who has thought up and tried every solution in the book (and not in the book) to the point where he has broken whole new ground when it comes to thinking up possible solutions to his own problems; and to have someone else either only be aware of "by-the-book solutions" that disregard the realities of life for the person who is dealing with them.
It's also similarly (but maybe not quite as) disgusting to be the person who has one problem or another and who is given advice by someone else who has/has had (or so he thinks) gone through something similar and dealt with it in a way that worked (or at least worked out) for him; and who thinks all problems/challenges that fall under that same category must be the same.
The fact is, within the broad category of one type of problem or another; no two people, no two relationships (or sets of relationships), no two personal histories, and no two sets of circumstances or challenges or responsibilities or emotions or needs are the same. In fact, sometimes what may be a problem that would fall under one category may be experienced more than once by the same person; and each time the experience and set of circumstances or timing of that "category of problem" can be very different.
None of us can be expected to truly understand what someone else's challenges involve, or what that other person has dealt with or is dealing with. All we can be expected to understand, maybe, is that most people would solve their own problems if it weren't for complicating circumstances that prevent them from doing that. True, the very young and/or people who have one or another kind of intellectual limitation (or even extreme cultural difference), may benefit from simple advice or tips about how to handle one or another kind of problem. That's not most people, though. In fact, when it comes to advice and fixing problems it's often not even most children or teens.
And, to bring up another group of people who often find themselves on the receiving end of clueless advice, it's not even most elderly people who are far too often judged and/or dismissed as "not being willing to even make an effort" by clueless (and often well intentioned) younger people who have not yet learned what people learn between the "prime of their life" (whenever that's deemed to be) and those years (and circumstances) that take place as even the longest of lives get closer to their end.
Nobody can, or should, be expected to truly understand what someone else is going through (although asking, and respecting any answer given can help). It shouldn't be too tough, though, for most people to understand that simple concept and to refrain from believing they have the simple answer to someone else's problems/circumstances "if only the other person would make the effort" or "...would listen". And yet, in an arrogant world full of narcissistic thinking that leads some people not to understand that other people are actually individuals with their own set of circumstances/experiences/challenges, it sure seems like that particular concept escapes far too many advice-givers.
Posted by ME Whelan at 11:32 PM