Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Being an Agony Uncle

You know the way some chap comes to you, usually a good friend, tells you all about his (or her) latest serious relationship problem and asks you for your advice. Then you give chap the required advice. You know that every word, every single thing you've said makes perfect sense, that one of those Doctors on TV would have said the same stuff only not as convincingly.

Then, some time later, you discover that the friend has waltzed off into the outside world and done the exact opposite of your plan. You've told the friend that he needs to ignore the girl, or he needs to wear women's clothes to impress her and gain her heart, and he has gone straight out and talked to her all the time whilst wearing the clothes of a man. Then he comes back to you in a state of even more upset and anguish because she has spurned him.

So, why does this happen?

Well I've been pondering on this phenomenon lately and have developed a bit of a theory. The first thing to understand is that often the poor fellow in need doesn't actually want any advice, he just wants to talk to someone and let things out.

If advice is actually required then we (the agony Uncles) always look at things from an objective and detached viewpoint. I invariably start by saying things like

"If I was in your position..."

I'll go on to advise the friend exactly what I think I would do if I were in their situation. I'll have taken the facts, as presented to me by the friend, looked at them logically and objectively and processed them in my vastly befuddled brain, the one that is normally miles away from where it is required. Then I'll go off on one and advise the chap on exactly how I see things.

That's the crux of my new theory. I, and I bet you do it too, have given advice based on facts and emotional detachment. Said friend is stuck in the middle of things, his (or her) emotions are set on gas mark "totally involved" and their view of things is enhanced, clouded, filtered or influenced by love, chemicals and all sorts of subjectivity that shouldn't be allowed in the developed world. Or the developing world come to think of it. Our advice is wholly innapropriate, entirely wrong and always ignored.

So how do we avoid this happening in the future?

Well my plan is very simple.

You still listen to the friend in need but, before you proffer a single word of wisdom, just ask them if they want your advice or if they just want to talk and let stuff out. Be genuine and sincere and you'll be surprised how many people don't want to know your advice and are actually happy to say so.

If the chap just wants to talk and has no need for words of wisdom then a useful accesory is an iPod. You can surreptitiously bung the earphones in and listen away to your heart's content to whatever takes your fancy, while the heartbroken fellow spurts on about unrequited love, using sex toys on buses and the other normal things. Just master the art of saying "yes" or "mmm" or nodding your head in agreement at the right intervals. Advanced listeners can even learn a phrase or two to throw into the proceedings but care and due diligence should be exercised. Situations can be embarrassing and painful for all concerned when you come out with

"You're better off without her, I never thought she was right for you" in response to your soon to be ex friend telling you how sad he is because his Mother has just died.

Just be careful, use common sense and always try to make your comments as general as possible, while making your patient think that you're being smart and specific. Some handy phrases are:

"I see what you're going through" and "It can't easy for you at all".

They're applicable to almost any scenario and the fellow in need will think you're listening to his every utterance.

It's worth adding that I have heard stories of people using MP3 players other than iPods. I can neither verify or recommend the practice. Yes there are other MP3 players available, some people argue that they're better than iPods, they may even be correct. But these are poor quality people and their opinions should be disregarded. They don't understand the beauty of an iPod, the pure sexiness in its design. Would you seek relationship advice from a fellow who had a generic MP3 player? Me neither.

Don't shatter you credibility into a gazillion pieces later in the conversation by giving out some advice. No, just listen and shut the fuck up.

However, if they do want your advice, then by all means give it freely. Listen to their story of woe, despite the fact that it will inevtably be about a girl who either isn't interested in the chap or whose interest the chap can't ascertain.

Give good advice based on your objective and logical opinion. Don't try things like looking at it from their point of view, you can't. Just give out the wisdom with the full knowledge that it will be ignored. Be happy about it. Be flattered that you have been asked. Be happy that, like Jose, you are the chosen one. Just be aware that he'll go off and do the opposite.

That's the trick, the golden shower, if you like.

Listen, talk, get ignored then be prepared to do it all again the next time.



Darwin said...

Way too tired to bother giving genuine rational logical advice anymore because as you say, they go and do the exact opposite. Logic seems to fly out of the window and I have a hard time dealing with people like that.

Now I just tell them whatever comes to my head and have a laugh at their expense. Funnily enough, I don't have people coming to me for relationship advice anymore! Nothing like bad advice to stop people from bothering you with their silly little lives.

Mr. Evil said...

I totally agree with you on one thing, most people want someone to listen to them. The truth is, even though most people ask for advice they don't intend on taking it. Simply because by over thought and processing over a period of time prior to seking advice, they've carefully calculated steps to be taken. If you're there at the moment of disaster then the advice or support you provide may perhaps add a hint of change in their chain of thought. Remember that even though people talk as a way of releasing their mind and burdens they never talk about everything. We keep things in our mind similar to hmmm.. images perhaps. A flowchart lets say. Putting this into words is rather painful for someone in distress, even a simple problem can manifest as a jumbled up set of thoughts. For the listener there is a special job of being able to interconnect all these thoughts and draw a map of the indiividuals mind or thought patterns. This will help to figure out the most probably course of acton the person will take. If this course seems disastrous then it's a matter of changing gradually.

Perhaps the first thing one should enlighten them about is that sudden decisions in cases of the mind and heart are rather foolish. And although some adhoc decisions work, the risk is best calculated.

oops :D I've rambled on I see :D

I doubt your buddy had such a heavy problem.. but since you seem like a guy who listens well and gives advice.. lets hope none of ur uncle agony days bring you any problems!

Friendship is amazing all right! Specially when you look at someone and tink.. "YOU DID WHAT !!! Great.. now lets work on this!!" lol :)

Beatrice Hannah said...

I get all anxious if I think someone is going to act on my advice, cos what the hell do I know? Usually I ask them questions like what they are thinking of doing, why and what other options there are. If they think of the solution I feel useful, but happily not responsible for whatever it is they go and do (and since I have generic mp3 player my advice is better not given ;-) xx Bea

Anonymous said...

Since I am one of the accredited people to give advise (I own a iPod) , I have found myself in your situatuon . But I have got in to bit of mess by doing this advising business, Firstly I listen to a bloke who was having relationship problems , and he ended up thinking & confronting the better half , that I was interested in her. To have her tell me , that she is flettered but it'll never workout.

Recently , when I answered the question, what would I do if I was in the situtaion. This lady stopped talking to me cause she felt I crossed a line by answering same.

So you think it is a sign that I should stop this advising thing? :)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Darwin - I'll try to remember never to come to you for advice!

Mr Evil - I agree and thanks for the long comment.

Beatrice - I often think that, if I am the person who has been asked, then that gives me the right to give advice. Of course the recipient can choose whether to act on it or not.

I like your blog too!

Anonymous - Thanks but I must admit to not really being able to understand your comment. Please elaborate. My opinion is that advice should be given when asked for, not just dished out to all and sundry whether they want it or not. And of course I'm only telling you that because you asked!