As much as we love our families and friends, sometimes they make choices that stop us dead in our tracks--we absolutely can’t understand what in the heck possessed them to choose such a thing. That is just a fact of life, and it happens in all sorts of areas of our lives.... jobs, relationships, food choices, whatever.
There have been times when I have surprised people with my actions; for instance, that time I quit my 9-5 job and decided that I was just going to “become a writer.” What an absurd idea! How are you going to do that? These are just a couple of the things that people said to me. It hurt my feelings a little, but certainly not enough to change my mind... only enough to let me know precisely where I stood in some people’s estimation. (Too bad for them.)
On the other hand, I have been known to dole out some harsh criticism in certain instances, and one of these areas has been my mother’s dating life. I am not proud of it... but there was time when I felt like it was my place to tell her what I thought of her boyfriend; let’s call him Jim. They dated for years and had very....passionate... break ups and get togethers. Boy did I learn my lesson. When they broke up I thought, "Well, I will just say whatever I please." WRONG! They always seemed to get back together.
Though they are not together now, I wish that I would have let my mother have a little more space for her feelings because, really, her relationship had little to no effect on my personal life. Maybe if I had just been a little more open, she would have confided in me more and I could have given better advice. [Just so you know, I understand that I am making my mother and I sound like besties here, but there is just no shame in my game... my mother was my Maid of Honor--‘nuff said.]
The honest to god truth in the matter is that once you become an adult, people don’t really want your two cents unless you ask for it, which can be mildly disappointing to the self-proclaimed advice giver. Sometimes people just want to vent. Sometimes they just want to share. Mostly, they just want you to listen. Opinions are like assholes--everyone has one. We share our lives with people when we feel like they will be supportive of us, and sometimes that works against us.
It has taken me years, but I think that I have finally learned that the best response can often be [drumroll please] none at all. It’s great to just listen and be supportive. When someone I love asks me what I think, often I like to let them know that if they are happy, that I am happy, and I ALWAYS mean it.
Who am I to stand between anyone and their authentic self? Further, how can I ever understand the place from which another person’s decisions derive... it’s the same as when I make a decision that others don’t understand. Obviously, I am not trying to hurt anyone through my decisions. It is just what I think is best for me. Plain and simple.
So, for example, when a friend is dating someone you don’t like, you [and by you I mean “me”] might feel compelled to tell them to dump them because you don’t want to necessarily want to be around them. Instead of unleashing your perhaps unwelcome opinion on them, here is a conversation you can use to talk yourself out of saying whatever is initially on your mind:
“This decision, in terms of dating, does not effect my life in any direct way. If this person is truly bad for my friend or family member, I trust that they are truly smart enough to recognize this. I will keep my mouth shut.”
Try to really put yourself in their shoes... not their shoes through your eyes (that is totally different)... but their ACTUAL shoes. Perhaps you will decide that the very best thing for you is to say nothing at all; because if your loved ones are happy, and, after all, isn’t that really all that matters?