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Ask Amy: Does it work to tell someone how you feel?

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I want to thank you for all your good (and sometimes quite entertaining) advice.

Here is the only thing I wonder about: How often does it really work to just TELL people something? You frequently say, “You should say to your friend, ‘thus and so’…”

While the advice might be good, and it’s necessary to be upfront and honest with people, I wonder how often saying “[whatever]” would actually resolve the problem. Or would it just start an argument?

My husband and I basically have a very happy marriage of 45 years duration. However, my dear husband has a short fuse. Even though I often mentally dither for hours about how to couch a complaint or suggestion in such a way that it won’t offend or upset him, it often doesn’t work. He immediately goes on the defensive, and then on the offensive, and we are in an argument that I had hoped to avoid.

I have sometimes resorted to emailing him, even though he’s sitting right across the room from me. This way, I can take time to “craft” my case or my request; then he can read it at leisure and respond after he’s had time to process it. We can present our “sides,” ask questions, and work through issues without having hot words fill the air. Different strokes for different folks, I guess!

— Still a Fan

 

Dear Fan: You have adjusted your communication style in order to elicit comprehension and an effective response. Well done!

When I counsel people to “say” something, I am really encouraging them to express themselves, in whatever way works best.

I grew up in an extremely creative, expressive, and entertaining family that nonetheless rarely communicated about “hard” feelings.

I thought that if I expressed difficult emotions, it meant that I was a “difficult” person. Later in life, I’ve learned that – sometimes – it’s OK to be difficult.

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