Welcome back to Guysourcing, where a panel of helpful gentlemen answer your questions. This week's question is ripped from the headlines: Do you talk about your problems? Why or why not? And if so, who do you choose to talk to?
I actually don't really talk that much about my problems, and ironically, I think it's a trait that I learned from my mother. Just like me, she'll spend hours chatting your ear off about reality TV shows or an article she read or gossip she heard, but she never really talks about when things are going badly. I'm kind of the same way. I'd much rather deliver good news to everyone or have a funny new story to share at cocktail parties than talk about when things are going badly. Yes, I have about three or four really close friends that I'll talk about emotional, professional, or (thankfully rare) sexual problems with, but mostly I just take a cue from my mom — laughing about how ridiculous Snooki is so no one knows how worried I am about other things on the inside.
It depends on the situation and who I am interacting with. If I just had a bad day with work, a client is late paying me or I had a minor spat with my primary partner and I'm out with my guy friends at the bar and they notice I seem annoyed I'll say something simple like "works sucks" or "my girlfriend is getting on my nerves" and they'll say "that sucks" and we'll get a round of beers or shots and that's it. The important thing in those situations themselves is just not letting people wonder if something really shitty has happened, knowing they cared enough to ask and then moving on - because my guy friends would be as bored hearing about my minor shit as I would be hearing about their minor shit. Being a downer isn't fun, and, really, what can anyone do if a client said something dumb or shitty about draft copy I sent them? I'd rather just have a beer and talk about positive stuff. More often then not a couple beers and shots and just scoping out girls with my friends for an hour will make the problem pretty much go away.
If I'm having a relationship problem with my primary partner that I can't figure out then I'll talk to one of my female friends either in person or online, because they are likely to have more insight into what I can do to solve the problem than my male friends would and can give me practical advice on whether I should stand my ground or dig myself out of the doghouse. Problems that are either major that I need serious help with or minor but continue to bug me (i.e. a client acting like a dick every single day and it stressing me the fuck out) I save it for my shrink because she is going to offer the most practical advice of all. My friends are always going to back up my side of the story, because nobody likes to tell their friends they are fucking up, but since I'm not perfect, sometimes I will be fucking up. So, my shrink can either call me on my bullshit if I'm full of shit in the situation, or, if I'm not full of shit and am right about the situation tell me how to make it stress me out less and give me suggestions on what to say/do to make the problem less of a big deal.
The cheesy old chestnut about communication being the root of a strong relationship seems to be totally true — so yeah, I try to. I have a blog, which has a diary aspect to it — I'll go on and on about whatever— but these days that has sort of subsided, since I don't have a lot of problems? Or when I do, they tend to be rather banal stress problems — you know, work stuff for instance — and then I don't WANT to talk about them. I'll generally throw out a disclaimer — "ugh, sorry, I'm fussy, but I don't want to talk about it"— but unless there is something that discussion can solve, I don't want to just mash it out. When I do want to talk about things, I generally want to dance around it with overly flowery metaphors or Rube Goldberg analogies. Sometimes a change of medium helps — I might be more likely to just spill my guts over instant messenger than face to face. My wife obviously gets a lot of it — a lot of it bubbling around, constantly— but friends online get it just as much, because of the aforementioned change of format.
When I worked in a popular lingerie store, I learned the hard way that complaining about your problems won't solve them. Complaining doesn't get management to notice you, fix your friends' problems or get you a job outside of retail, but actually trying to solving them usually can. That said, I definitely talk about my problems, but I try not to complain about them. I stopped asking my mom for advice about girl problems because she's been married to the last guy she dated for 38 years—but I still ask her about almost everything else. I actually try to talk about most of my problems with my family because if I can't solve them on my own, I generally need a different perspective. But I'll also ask friends and employers for advice every once in a while. Friends are generally where I get dating advice and I'll ask employers for job advice to augment my dad's advice. Some things I do end up keeping to myself, but that's generally if I decide they aren't a priority or they don't need to be solved.
On balance, I think I'm a pretty private person — I attribute that to growing up in a family extravagantly prone to the overshare. However, I do have confidantes, and I find myself calibrating how I interact with them based on how long I've known them. I have two close friends from high school with whom I share pretty much everything, because they've seen me through the awkwardness of adolescence and still enjoy talking to me. That's more valuable to me than any amount of common interests. I come to newer, college- and workforce-friends with different levels of engagement, based on their temperament, general attitudes, and responses to previous instances of spillage. Which perhaps defeats the purpose of confiding in people, if you know beforehand what their reaction will be, but there you have it. When I want constructive criticism, I turn to the two people who knew me in my awkward teen gaybie phase; when I want people to nod along and sympathize, I turn to people who see me for the (un)finished product I present myself to the world as.
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Image by Steve Dressler