Archive for December 18th, 2010
I seem to attract a certain type of person. Every couple of days it seems like someone tells me that they wish they could tell someone X but that they “can’t.” One or two good questions later it is clear that they actually could tell someone X but they would rather not. They would rather not endure that short moment of discomfort, even though getting it off their chests would give them months or even years of sweet relief.
Instead of telling someone X, the typical complainer tells me that they can’t tell someone X, and I it seems that telling me about their unwillingness to tell another person who really needs to hear X, they get a small bit of relief. But this bit of relief for them is at my expense. It annoys me to hear that a complainer won’t simply tell someone else something that they need to be hearing. If this sounds nebulous, let me offer a few examples:
“I can’t tell my roommate to quit eating my food without paying for it.”
“The neighbor’s barking dogs are driving me crazy, but I don’t dare tell the neighbor to do anything about it.”
“My boss won’t give me a raise, but I dare not ask him for it, even though it’s been 10 years since I received a raise and I deserve it.”
“My 38-year-old child needs to move out of the house, but I cannot ask her to do so.”
“My husband is almost always 20 minutes late for everything we do, but I am unable to talk to him about this problem.”
“My coworker keeps hanging around talking and this keeps me from getting my work done, but she’s very sensitive so I am not able to say anything.”
Bullshit. You can say something. You should say something. Anything that can be said can be said by you, and it could be said succinctly and with kindness. And if you won’t say it because you’d rather complain to me about it, I’m going to start taking law into my own hands and I’m going to tell them.
[Knock, knock, knock].
Erich: “Hello. You don’t know me, but I work with your upstairs neighbor. Almost every day she complains to me about your loud yappy dog. Your dog keeps my coworker awake, and it keeps her from concentrating on her studies. You need to do something about your dog. Do you understand? Good. I hope there will be no need for me to stop by again. Thank you. Have a nice day.
Doing this sort of thing is not difficult for me. Half of the advice I already give to people is to encourage them to go say the thing they need to say to the person who needs to hear it. Maybe I should monetize this service, charging the complaining person $20 to go say the thing that they can’t say. “Bob, please stop calling Amy because she really doesn’t like talking to you; you see, she’s afraid to tell you to quit calling her.” Or this: “Amy, Bob asked me to tell you to quit flirting with him if you don’t want him to call you.”
Actually, rather than doing the work myself, it might even more fun to drag the complaining person along and force the two of them to talk to each other. You know, teach a man to fish . . . I’d do that service cheap, for $20 per occurrence, and the world would be better for it.
Or does someone already offer a service like this?