Do you have issues with your no-longer-best girlfriend? Is your coworker driving you crazy? Megan Carpentier is here to give you the life advice that you don’t want to hear, told in the way you absolutely need to hear it.
When I started this column, we decided not to give advice about what to do in romantic relationships because the advice is always the same: either talk to your significant other, or leave. That’s why it always ended with “If you have a problem with your boyfriend, you should probably just try talking to him.” But, in fact, it turns out that the answer to many people’s questions is to just talk with the person you’re having an issue with — and then to listen.
Now, I understand that I am a more confrontational person than average and that, for many people it seems preferable to suffer in silence until the problem is so big you have to address it or wither under the weight of it toppling on you. You are, in that case, the emotional equivalent of a participant in the show “Hoarders” — so unwilling or afraid to tackle the most minor airing of conflict that you’ll just let the pile of problems grow until it has to bust out somewhere — even if only to an advice columnist.
And while advice columnists undoubtedly, to a person, appreciate the fact that enough people are fucked up enough to continue needing advice week after week there’s one difficulty — how to dress up the same advice week after week so that people don’t realize you’re giving them the same advice you gave the last person. Have a problem with a friend? Talk to her about it in a non-angry, rational way aimed at resolving your problem in a way that works for both of you. Think a friend has a problem with you? Ask her in a non-angry, rational way aimed at resolving her problem in a way that works for both of you. Think the problems you have are unresolvable? End the friendship as kindly as possible. Hate your job? Talk to the people about what you think the problem is or, if you can’t, update the résumé. Have problems with your family? Talk to your parents like you guys are all adults and insist that they respond in kind.
Sense a theme?
I understand that it sounds easier said than done — and it is, when you don’t have any practice at it. We all want to be liked, we’re all afraid other people might not like us, and we all worry that if we express ourselves too frankly, the people we want or need to like us won’t. And so, at some point in our lives, we all bite our tongues and choose to be quiet rather than tell someone something we think they don’t want to hear. And a little of that goes a long way — no one, even on Twitter, needs to hear the minutiae of every little thing about every single person that causes us a temporary moment of annoyance. And if those moments pass, or will pass, easily, then passing on saying anything might be wiser than making everything an issue.
But if you take a deep breath, or a few moments away from the heat of a given interaction and realize that something causes more than momentary annoyance, ask yourself why you are upset, whether the other person is really at fault and what, if anything, that person could do or could have done differently to keep you from feeling that way. Realistically, what would you — or what would you want to — get out of that interaction? And then just ask for it. Practice asking for and explaining what you need when it isn’t an emergency or a crisis, and it’ll be easier to do it calmly and rationally when it is (and, hopefully, it won’t come to a crisis quite as often).
If you haven’t guessed , this is my last advice column for The Gloss, which is why I’m trying to fit a lifetime’s worth of advice into one short space. Basically, be honest, try to be kind, be forthright and be willing to acknowledge your own mistakes and try to make up for them. And never ask Dan Savage whether you should lose weight for your partner: his answer is yes, but you’re not in a relationship with him anyway.
If you have a problem with a friend, relative, coworker, or other person in your life, see above. If you have a problem with your boyfriend, you should probably just try talking to him. And if you want to keep up with Megan, follow her on Twitter.