Help - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity

Off-the-Wall Stuff


When people tel you about a problem they have or ask for help, they are looking for one of three kinds of response:

  1. Actual help or advice. Like someone says, "How do I change the spark plugs on my Chevy S-10?", and he wants you to tell him how to reach the spark plugs or what tools you need or other practical advice.
  2. But many people don't want actual help. What they want is sympathy for how difficult their problems are. Like once in marriage counseling, my then wife told the counselor, "He's always minimizing my problems." I asked what she meant. She replied, "Any time I tell him about a problem, he always starts telling me how to solve it." I was baffled. I said, "Why would you tell me about a problem unless you wanted suggestions from me on how to solve it?" But it rapidly turned out that what she wanted was not help solving her problems, but for me to make sympathetic noises and agree that her problems were really difficult. When I suggested solutions, she interpreted that as meing saying that her problems were silly and trivial and could be easily solved. To me, that sounded like asking a friend, "How can I change the spark plugs on my Chevy S-10?", and he replies, "Yeah, Chevies certainly can be difficult to work on." I would consider that a useless response, but it's the sort of response my wife wanted.
  3. Some people only want easy, magical solutions. Like, I was on a forum once where someone said that he had been turned down for a job because he showed up late for the interview. He said he was late because the bus was behind schedule -- he didn't own a car, so he had to take a bus. What could he do, he asked, to avoid this problem in the future? I said -- and several others gave similar answers -- next time, take an earlier bus. Plan to get there 30 minutes or more early. Then if the bus is behind schedule, you will still make it to the interview on time. If the bus is on schedule, you'll be early, so go to a coffee shop or some such to kill some time. He said this was impossible because the downtown area of his city where most jobs were had no coffee shops or other places where he could wait. I said fine, so just take a walk around the block. He said he couldn't do that because he might get mugged. I said to sit at the bus stop. He had some reason why he couldn't do that. At that point I gave up. He clearly wasn't looking for practical solutions. He would only accept some magic solution that would make him on time for the interview without having to be inconvenienced by planning to get there early. Someone else said, Even if I ran the bus system, I don't know what I could do to guarantee that the busses would be on time. Presumably the people who run the system are trying to make them run on time and not succeeding. There is no magic solution.

© 2024 by Jay Johansen


No comments yet.

Add Comment