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.
I have definitely chosen to communicate textually (text, email, letter) when it is important to get the words exactly right. I agree with you that this can often be the most effective way to communicate with a loved one. Each party has the time and space to take in what is being expressed.
When people choose to verbalize their feelings, it is helpful to choose the right moment and the right words (sometimes even practicing in advance). That’s why I try to inspire people by providing a little script.
As always, however, when you behave authentically, you must prepare for the other person to respond authentically – and (more often than not), that person goes off script! This is why it is so important to not only learn how to talk, but also listen.
Dear Amy: Why is it so acceptable to drink alcohol as an activity? Alcohol impairs judgment, disinhibits, often gets paired with other drugs, ruins families, leads to serious health problems, causes traffic and other accidents, and deaths.
Yet, people all the time get together to have a drink, meet over drinks, go out drinking, celebrate with drinking, receive bad news by having a drink, boost their confidence with a drink, serve every dinner with a drink, etc.
Why is this necessary? I don’t understand it any more than I understand why most people drive well over the speed limit.
— Curious, in Silver Spring MD
Dear Curious: It is not necessary to drink alcohol in order to celebrate, socialize, cope with one’s boredom, or enhance the flavor of a juicy steak. There is no question that alcohol consumption (and addiction) is responsible for incalculable damage to individuals, families, and society at large.
And yet people do things all the time that aren’t acceptable, necessary, healthy, or good for themselves and others. Our freedom to make unhealthy mistakes is one of the most challenging aspects of being human.
When we choose to drink alcohol, we are choosing to imbibe a substance that will alter our perceptions. As an occasional wine drinker, I believe that can be a pleasurable and positive choice.
However, especially when it comes to alcohol, “in all things, moderation.” Moderation might be less “fun,” but you can look yourself in the eye the next morning.
Dear Amy: “Worried” was upset by her good friends’ 13-year-old daughter’s racy postings on Instagram.
Amy, if this girl is posting pornographic photos, it is a matter for the police, not the parents.
Dear Upset: I don’t know if these photos were pornographic (I don’t think so), but, given the close friendship between both parties, the parents should be consulted before the police are.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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