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Question

I have a couple of friends/co-workers that I really respect and like to spend time with or talk to. We have good conversations and have similar interests.

However, I feel like if I ever talk to them about family issues I'm having, they jump to conclusions or are overly judgmental about how I'm trying to handle things.

How can I approach these individuals about this without risking losing them as friends?


Background

Names used are not real.

If I were to talk to one of these friends, Alice, about something my boyfriend or my brother, both of whom live with me, are doing, she will either tell me that I'm handling it wrong no matter how I clarify, or assert that I should do "x", regardless of how I point out that "x" is either overkill or would cause more problems. The other friend will also do these.

Another example is if I mention something is bothering me, the other friend Mary insists that the cause is "y" and I won't fix the problem unless I deal with "y". (Such as headphones causing my chronic migraines. I've had these migraines longer than I've used headphones, and I don't use headphones nearly as much as she thinks I do.)

It feels like I'm being judged or lectured when I just need someone not so invested in the situation to talk to me rationally and listen to what I'm going through. Sometimes, if these are the only such people I have to talk to and I really need to talk to someone. I feel like I'd be better off paying for a counselor than talking to my friends about my problems. I sometimes get the impression that these friends, one is in her 30s or 40s and the other is in her 40s or 50s, are treating me like a child. I'm 24, so there is a significant age gap here.

I could well be overreacting, but I'm not the only one who noticed. Some of my other friends, Carrie and Joe, have noticed the same things about these two.

I want to let these friends know that I appreciate their views, because I do and I do consider them, but they seem to be very judgmental and pushy. I don't know if it's because I'm so much younger than they are, so they think I don't know what I'm talking about, or if they just really feel that they can't be wrong. Frequently pushing their views on a subject under discussion makes me feel uncomfortable. I feel like I can't talk to them about serious issues in my life without being lectured about what they think I should or shouldn't do.

Alice seems to have noticed I've been avoiding talking to her about these things and has mentioned it to Carrie. Neither of us knows how to tactfully explain that her reactions are what's got me talking to the others

  • Let me know if there are better tags for this, or if there's a better way for me to format/organize this to help make it more readable. – Kendra Aug 18 '17 at 20:04
  • You might want to give us a more general example of the situations you face. What do all of your examples have in common? What about their behavior bothers you? Specific examples aren't always necessary. - You might want to change these things before they flag this question as being "too broad". – user2191 Aug 18 '17 at 20:22
  • So, basically, these friends mentioned here are judgemental instead of lending you their sympathetic ears. Right? – NVZ Aug 18 '17 at 20:28
  • @NVZ That's what it feels like, at least. (Only two of them, Joe and Carrie are friends who do lend their ears and have noticed the same issues. Working on parsing this down and clarifying right now.) – Kendra Aug 18 '17 at 20:29
  • @AlexCommon I've updated the question. Do you think this is less broad, or is there more I can fix? – Kendra Aug 18 '17 at 20:46
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So, okay seeing as we're both in the exact same position (except it's a close friend of mine, not a sibling and it's three kittens instead of a couple of puppies) at the same age. I feel obligated to offer my two cents on this.

It is stressful, it can feel a tad isolating sometimes being the one who's helping but without much reciprocation in regards to getting any help back (in this case advice).

One thing you might need to note is that you're opening yourself up to these friends of yours and making yourself emotionally vulnerable, this can invite an array of different kinds of comments and people tend (maybe with realising it or without) to look down on it. It's because they're not going through (and by their age, haven't gone through the same thing for a long time) or maybe going through something of their own. I don't know.

Add some positives

My advice to you would be to not only tell them the negatives (which would give them a negative outlook on the situation) but to also notify them of small victories you're having. (I do this with myself with trying to quit smoking, the small victories follow onto the overall goal) and if they let them know the small victories, they'll see both sides of the coin.

You can't change one's reaction to a situation, but you can change one's perception of it. Add some positive input into the conversations (may they be small) and it'll change the way they view said person or said conversations. I wouldn't totally neglect any conversation altogether because that might stem onto bigger things in your friendship (as you like being around them).

Something to remember

You're going to these friends for advice, you're voluntarily accepting their personalities and viewpoint on a particular scenario. You aren't always going to like what you hear, it's natural. Simply acknowledge and appreciate what they've said.

Thanks for having this chat with me, I'll take it onboard and have a think about it when I get home.

You're more than entitled to hear them out (saves the questioning your mutual friends about it) and move on, ask your other friends who do lend an ear, and think on all different viewpoints you have and act based on your own rationale with the information you're armed with.

The bottom line

Don't take it too personally, it's natural when there's an age gap for someone to "lecture you", it's a very old school way of thinking that the older you are, the wiser you are. Just try and change both their perception of you and perception of your conversations, the way they react to it regardless is out of your control. You never know, someday their knowledge may help you moreover your other friends.

  • I've tried to steer away from specific examples in regards to dialogue but more of a general consenus on the approach, hope it helps – Bradley Wilson Aug 18 '17 at 21:01
  • This is also good advice, I'll give the positive comments a go and see where it gets me. I've been trying not to let it bother me too much. It might be all the stress I'm under making me more sensitive on top of things, as well. Thanks! – Kendra Aug 18 '17 at 21:07
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    @Kendra it's not an overnight thing, I do it with everyone I can now. I try and counteract the negative with positive (if any), it normally responds well for neutral replies and or something like well "atleast you're staying positive" (people of age, may few that as 'mature') – Bradley Wilson Aug 18 '17 at 21:18
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Here's what I gather:

You expect your friends Alice and Mary to lend you their ears when you need someone to talk to about (mostly negative) whatever is troubling you.

They instead are quick to judge you or jump to conclusions instead of actually helping you sort things out.

Your other mutual friends Joe and Carrie agree with your assessment about Alice and Mary.

Here's one way I can relate to it:

I used to share a room with a friend for about two to three months while looking for a job myself. The job market is tough here. So when I return to the room and try to talk about what's happening, he used to quickly jump to the "do this, not that, you fool" mode.

Here's what I made of it:

Initially, I was upset, because I was in a new city and all I had to talk to was just this friend, and his responses weren't really helping. There was even a meltdown from his side one day. That was when I actually understood what was going on for him. He was having the worst time at his job, and I wasn't clearly there to listen to him, but I wasn't aware of this. His built up frustration is what led to his terse and judgemental responses towards me.

Based on such experiences,

Here's what I could suggest you do:

Maybe these friends Alice and Mary have their own things to sort out, and your discussions with them aren't any use to you or them. Perhaps you should help them with their matters or find someone else you can talk to about yours.

But in the meantime, have other sorts of (mostly positive) conversations with them so as to not let them feel ignored.

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    This makes a lot of sense... I don't know about Mary, but Alice most definitely has things going on right now (though she has talked to me and our mutual friend about it, and we listen as we expect her to do) with her oldest daughter and her house. While I might not know about Mary, she doesn't seem to like talking about herself, so perhaps she actually is doing what she'd expect me to do if she did talk about herself. I'll definitely try keeping up with them on other, positive, conversations then. I doubt it can go too wrong if we avoid politics... – Kendra Aug 18 '17 at 20:52
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Just A Thought

When you are telling your troubles to your two friends, are you just wanting someone to be a soundboard, or are you actually looking for their honest advice?

I used to have this problem with my husband, who when I simply wanted someone to hear my rant about whatever was bothering me, and to say something sympathetic back, like, "yeah, that does really suck", he would attempt to tell me where he thought I went off the rails and how I should proceed to repair the damage.

He assumed I was looking for him to fix every problem I brought to him, instead of just needing a friendly shoulder to lean on.

If this is your situation, then I would attempt to:

  • Explain how much you appreciate their friendship,

  • Let them know you're having a bad day/situation, and just need someone to hear you out,

  • And that you don't expect or want them to solve the problem for you, just stand with you.

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