Advice on Giving Advice
My problem revolves around some furry drama. Isn't that a surprise. Furries are never dramatic.
Anyway, omitting sarcasm, my letter actually revolves around a small, close-knit group of furries I'm a part of. We have this group chat, and we used to get along very well. We're internet friends, but close internet friends.
However, over the past month or so, I've realized I'm not really like them. I mean, I have fun around them, for sure, but... It's hard to explain. Its almost as if our base morals conflict with each other. Plus, I'm partly, pretty much mostly, to blame.
You see, I've always had one simple fault- it's hard to offend me, so I assume everyone else has my thick skin, when in reality, everyone's unique in how much they can handle.
I was playing therapist one day, trying to give advice to one of the furries in my 'tough love' sorta way. I don't really believe in the "aww it ok baby lemme give you a hug" sort of method that's become all too common. Yes, it may work short-term, but, let's be honest, true problems are more deeply rooted, and if the person truly believes something is bogging them down, they should locate what is broken and fix it.
That furry didn't take too kindly to it. I tried to word it sensitively, but I was blunt and to the point, and they took offense. I hurt them.
This isn't the first time I hurt the others, either. My very nature seems to offend some people, ironically, because I assume people don't get offended.
I'm a loving person at heart, I swear, I'm just terrible at communicating and keeping my mouth shut, but after hurting all these furries so many times, I decided enough was enough. Packed my suitcase and turned tail, walked right out of that door.
Now that I reflect back on things, though, was leaving this group the right thing to do? I wasn't unhappy in their company, completely the opposite, but the mere fact I made others unhappy with my presence is enough to leave. Was me leaving just a cowardly way of avoiding fixing myself, or was I truly doing it with the best of intentions?
Now, two weeks after I left, the head of the chat's trying to convince me to come back, and I'm unsure of whether to return to this chat, be in the company of furs I like and make that lead fur happy, but have the guilt of knowing I hurt them and probably making them think I'm the over dramatic one, or should I stay out, know I won't hurt anyone, but loose them as friends and risk being considered a coward?
To make a long story short, I repeatedly get in scuffles with the furries in that chat because I'm slightly mean (and bad at communication) and they're slightly sensitive, and I couldn't risk hurting them more, so I upped and left. Now I have the offer to come back... I do miss them, but should I really return? I may just hurt them more.
Thanks for reading this train wreck of a letter, I hope it's at least legible.
Your weary deer,
* * *
Papabear agrees with you that it doesn’t always solve a problem to just offer sympathy when someone is troubled. Sometimes it does help (when people already know what is wrong and just need a bit of comforting), but sometimes you do need to point out where the problem is so they can identify it and fix it. This is the very thing I try to do with this column. I may have hurt some people’s feelings, too, but it seems I never hear from anyone if I have. Perhaps they just don’t respond.
I also believe that people have become overly sensitive, especially in American culture. A large part of the problem is a school and social system that is so concerned about self-esteem that it goes too far in the other direction: rewarding people for mediocrity and letting them get away with not being responsible for their own lives and their own decisions. The result is, well, frankly, we have a lot of weak-spined people in our country now. I mean, these are people who never fail a grade (we can’t fail people and make them repeat a grade! OMG!), who get awards simply for participating in an activity instead of excelling at it, and who are protected from any kind of criticism that might “hurt their feelings.” It’s gotten so bad that some colleges have been sued for teaching subjects such as the problems of racism in society for fear of offending students. When you protect people too much, shelter them too much, then you do not prepare them adequately for life: you are setting them up for failure. And that is not doing them any favors.
We learn more and grow more from the failures in our lives than from the successes. If you succeed all the time and life is easy, you stagnate as a human being, and then when suddenly your fortunes reverse, you implode. A great example of this is child stars. Many celebrities in music, acting, and sports get so famous and so rich so fast that they can’t handle it. They lose their money because they don’t know how to invest, they become drunks or drug addicts because they don’t know self-control, they lack humility because they are constantly told how great they are by a wall of fans and body guards and yes men.
But I digress.... In your case, you sound like you are trying to say things in a kind way while still pointing out where a problem is. Reading between the lines of your letter, it might be that some take offense because you come off as a know-it-all by trying to tell them they are wrong. The way I approach this in my column is to use examples in my own life and, often, show where I went wrong, too. Then you can say something such as, “You know, I had a similar experience and really goofed up, and this is what I learned from it.” If you haven’t gone through what they have, you might try to find something similar or use an example from somewhere else in life. If it is a really serious problem, you might simply just recommend an organization that can help them (as I do in cases of suicidal furries, for example.)
I’m not exactly sure how you are “slightly mean,” but will say to you that you should never use language that insults or disparages another person. Choice of words is very important, and you can say the same thing to someone in a way that is not hurtful by not saying things like “Boy, that was so stupid of you to do.” Instead, use “Well, you made a mistake, and we all make mistakes. Here’s what you might try to do to fix it....”
And here I go back to my favorite site, Tiny Buddha, which has an excellent page on how to give advice to someone the right way: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-tips-advise-wisely-how-to-give-advice-that-actually-helps/. (Honest, folks, I don’t work for Tiny Buddha or get kickbacks from them LOL).
You should not feel bad about trying to help others and hurting their feelings when you were just doing the best you could. You say you like these furries, and the group leader has invited you back, so that says a lot. It is possible, too, that you think you did more harm than you actually did.
Learning from the above, I would recommend you return to the group.
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