Hello everybody, welcome to Episode 19 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we answer your questions on life on the show.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
Do I sound nice today? Do I sound sexy today? If so, I’ve gotta thank my man Rodrigo from Orlando. Rodrigo is one of our dedicated listeners and he reached out to us with some suggestions as to how the audio could be improved. So starting with this episode, the audio should be even smoother from now on and we all have Rodrigo to thank so snaps for him — thank you, buddy!
Today we have a question sent in that covers some new ground for our show, on the relationship between friends and how the best of intentions can go misunderstood. Very exciting isn’t it? I like this one a lot, so let’s not wait any longer.
QUESTION: “I have a friend who is always sabotaging herself, especially with men. She’s not had a relationship in 6 years, and each time she tries dating someone new, she’s quick to point out all of his negative traits or even make up imaginary ones. I try to console her by reminding her of the positive traits in these men. Last week, after the same back and forth, she yelled at me for once again focusing only on the positives and then hung up on me. I feel bad about this, but I’m not sure what I did wrong. All I did was try to help her because I can see what she’s doing to herself over and over. I’ve made a strong effort to bring much more peace into my life and it has been working, so I try to offer it to other people, especially friends like her. Why did she react this way and could you help me understand what I did wrong?”
A Way that Negative People Cope
All right, a little gossip, I love this one. It's a great question.
This is a wonderful opportunity for us to step into the shoes of someone else and get a look into the mysterious ways that people can somehow respond poorly to us, even when we’re making concerted efforts to do right by them. It can be confusing stuff, for sure.
What’s important to realize here is that she’s trying to protect herself EVEN MORE than you’re trying to protect her, and I can tell you’re trying to protect her a lot.
It might not seem that way to you, because you see her sort of creating the same roadblock for herself and running into it over and over again. But in the same way you see her negative thinking as self-sabotage, she’s been conditioned to see your positive thinking as self-sabotage.
Positive thinking might not have yielded the same good results for her in the past that they have for you, so to her, she probably sees being too positive as being blind and unrealistic, the same way you think about negative thinking. Her negative thoughts are what she sees as a means of protection, whether or not she knows it.
How Negative People Prepare for The Worst
When she illustrates to herself all of the negatives, and all the things that could go wrong, at least a part of her thinks of that as setting herself up for success because she’s setting herself up to be ready for the worst. She’s preparing for future pain.
So she’ll either avoid it completely or at least be better prepared to handle it when it happens, as she would’ve played the scenario out in her head plenty of times and/or be able to have the upper ground in saying “I told you so” to herself. Sounds kooky, but it happens.
Philosophy on Life
We do this a lot as it makes it easier to feel a sense of control and confidence, sadly enough. Some people just have this philosophy that life is a bit more bleak and that a degree of pain is to be expected. I’d think most people know pain is to be expected, but we have different definitions of how much pain is to be expected and therefore what is sensible to prepare for.
Chances are her experiences or maybe even her genetics, or a combination of both, have led her to believe that there is more pain in life than you do. It’s just two different people operating based on what they know best — that’s all life is. Just because you have a new found belief in positivity doesn’t mean that she (or anyone else) does.
What Should I Do as a Good Friend?
So I think what’s important for you to do as a good friend and a good listener who really does want to help, is to be cognizant of:
- where she is
- why she might be jumping to these negatives
- what she seeks to gain from that kind of thinking
Ultimately, the more you can identify with her like this, the more you’re going to help her. Because I’ll bet…ooh…at the risk of sounding like I’m gender-stereotyping, that what she’s searching for in her interactions with you is someone to listen and provide support as opposed to provide a solution, especially in this situation.
Providing Support vs. Solutions
I say the gender-stereotyping thing because this tends to be a popular theme with men and women — the great miscommunication is that when women are discussing their struggles, they’re often (not always) looking for support and understanding whereas we men are instead getting to work on offering solutions to the problems. It’s a goodhearted effort on our part, but typically not the effort that’s being asked for.
So, even though the asker of this question is also a woman and probably understands this, I just wanted to throw that out as a reminder…because it DOES get easy to sort of bestow OUR beliefs upon someone who’s in a jam and forget that they aren’t necessarily on the same page as us. Therefore, they’re apt to feeling as though their voices aren’t being heard and they’re instead being preached to. That doesn’t really help anybody.
I think the best you can do right now is, in addition to making a better effort to understand where your friend is coming from like I mentioned a minute ago, is to just let her know that:
- you were doing what you thought was best and you were trying to help her the way you know ho
- you’re sorry if you misinterpreted or undersold her feeling
- you listened to this unreal podcast that gave you a whole new understanding of relationship dynamics and all is well now
That should open up a great dialogue between you two regarding where one another is coming from and how you can better help each other in the future. If she’s not responsive to this outreach, then that’s sort of on her, and I would think that you would’ve done the best you can do at that point.
When You Change Your Identity. . .
That being said, my final caution, if you will, goes beyond this specific interaction and extends to the remainder of your interactions from this point on. I’m telling you right now: this sort of fallout (and I hope it’s not permanent) is par for the course when you’re making a “strong effort to change,” as you put it.
When you do make a significant changes to your identity, like what you’re saying about how much peace you’re trying to add to your life and how well it’s been going, there will be casualties. You will simply start to get along less with some people or vice versa and relationships will change. Some will dissipate, some will get stronger, and some brand new ones will come in, too.
Those new ones, who are more in line with who you’re growing into should be very rewarding, but you can’t expect to keep everyone else, especially if you’re undergoing what you deem to be serious change. Others who are less like you will fall by the wayside, and that’s a compromise you must be willing to make if you’re insistent on adding more peace into your life.
All you can really do to “keep tabs on this” is not only to understand these almost inevitable changes, but also to take responsibility for the part of it that you control. If arguments like these do become normal, even in spite of you trying to be nice and be at your best, it’s important now to commit yourself to not being a victim, and to instead take responsibility for that which is done unto you.
Taking responsibility in this way does not necessarily mean the same thing as saying you did something wrong, but it puts you in a position to be accountable, honor your actions as well as others', and retain enough control to make alterations as you see fit.
In short, if you stay aware of the part you play in these types of arguments, you’re better prepared to change that part, should you feel you need to some day.
And that about wraps us up, folks.
As I said, it can be very tricky to understand why people aren’t responsive to us when we’re trying to do what’s best for them. Hopefully the principles laid out in this episode are principles you can take with you in any situation you might find yourself in that’s similar to this one.
In the meantime, keep doing your best to be kind. There’s only so much you can know about how someone else thinks, no question about that.
If you have your own question you’d like answered here on Optimal Living Advice you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
FYI we’re sending free books from our collection to those who send questions in. So we’d love to hear from you and if you’d like to hear more from me outside of the podcast, you can head to gregaudino.com or check out my instagram, username @simplygreggles. There’s a new kitten in the family so it’s as good a time as any to follow me, it’s not gonna get better than a baby kitten. He’s so precious. 🐱
Anyway, that does it for this one, so thanks so much for dropping in, and looking forward to talking to you next time!