If you want my advice…you’re in deep trouble.
The same goes for anyone else’s relationship advice, for that matter.
“But what do I do when they come begging for my help?” you ask.
In this delicate and sensitive area, there are some sound rules to follow:
Rule Number One. Don’t give out any advice, even if they say they really need it.
Rule Number Two. Give out a blanket statement that covers everything, and lets you off the hook for not giving any further and specific advice.
Rule Number Three. Get a signed statement (bring along your Notary Seal) releasing you from any responsibility for all damages and/or consequences if they won’t let you follow Rules Number One and Two.
Those safeguards in place, still tread lightly.
A. If you’re a woman advising your younger sister, a co-worker, or the right fielder on your softball team, just say, “There’s one thing you have to understand—All men are dogs.”
Easy, universally accepted (even by men), and the advisee can act the way she was going to anyway.
B. If you’re a man sympathizing with your old fraternity brother, somebody on the adjacent bike in Spin Class, or the guy crying into his beer on the next bar stool, just say, “There’s one thing you have to understand—All women are nuts.”
Easy, universally accepted (except by women), and this excuses his ineffectual, tentative, stumbling behavior while he waits for the woman to make the ultimate decision about the relationship.
Last Rule. Be Professional. If you have to bite the bullet and give the advice seeker more than generalities, you must use the scientific approach. Present the prospective advisee with a self-help book, and see if he or she can fit it into one of their shelves all ready jammed full of self-help books.
As professionally as you are approaching the situation, you can’t, however, have the tormented soul lie on your coach and babble on, while you prod them from time to time with things like, “And how did that make you feel?”
You don’t charge enough to pull that off.
Unfortunately, the days of just spewing back things you picked up from watching Dr. Ruth or listening to Dr. Laura are long gone. The good news is that in these more enlightened times, you can regurgitate advice from Dr. Phil and Judge Mathis. It may not be applicable, but it’s usually entertaining, and it sounds like your friend could use a good laugh.
Be sympathetic, but don’t ever volunteer too much. You might think it would help you show support by saying things like, “I always knew he was a sleazeball,” or “You deserve much better. She’s just no damn good. And what’s up with that hairdo?”
Think again. Fast.
Think of the day after you let an aggrieved woman bare her soul to you as to why she and her husband were splitting, and you (if you’re a woman), said to her, I thought he was cheating on you—he even hit on me last New Year’s Eve in your kitchen.”
Like I said, it’s the day after and she’s on the phone laughing a bit hysterically and telling you it was all a big misunderstanding, and that when confronted about what you told her, Roger explained that he was just kidding around when he had tried to grab you—“You know what a great kidder he is.”
I’d make other plans for this New Year’s Eve. First of all, you’re not going to be invited. And you’re never going to be allowed within 100 yards of her kitchen.
And if you’re a man and told your buddy, “No doubt about it, she’s a real bitch,” the man my forgive you, but his wife or girl friend (or both) won’t—that’s right, he stupidly quoted you in the heat of their next argument.
“Actually, she’s right,” you think. “He is an insensitive clod.”
Remember, people who say they want relationship advice, really don’t. They don’t want you to be a sounding board—more like a tennis backboard. They put the ball in play, and they want to hit it back.
Here’s the advice I’d have you give to those friends, “Whatever you decide to do, I’ll support you.”
That should be enough to get them off your back and go bother the hell out of someone else.
That’s what I think, but don’t take my advice.