The Seven Words That Help Me Listen

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I tend to be a good person to talk to, if you’re in trouble.  A large part of the reason for that is because I don’t get personally involved.
Some people, you talk to about your problems with your Significant Other and they immediately go, “Oh, what a bastard!” – and then are poisoned for the rest of their life against this jerk.  And s/he may not have even been a jerk, but you just had a bad day where you were taking things to personally, but no – your friend believes that to be a friend, they must take your side in everything.  Your SO hurt you, so they’re a jerk, and they’ll remind you what a jerk they are at every opportunity from now.
(Admittedly, some people love having their every irritation completely validated to the point where they adore the friends who’ll just jump right in and take their sides every time.  I do not trust any of these people.  I want wise friends who will counsel and contradict me upon occasion.  And besides, the friends who agree with you on everything are usually the clingy ones who are trying to remind you of what mean, useless gits all of your other friends are so that you can ditch them and spend all of your time with them, them, them.)
Anyway, when I listen, the advice I give is always predicated on the same seven words:
“If what you say is true, then…”
Because I don’t know what you say is true.  I believe that you believe it, but even with your best intents you can still misread, misunderstand, and just plain goof up.  What I’m hearing right now is not the truth, but rather one aspect of the truth that may turn out to be completely blinkered.
So I give advice on what people are telling me, with the caveat that what I’m saying only works if you’re on the money.  If he’s really being that mean to you, then you should go.  If she’s truly that disinterested in sex, then you have to decide whether it’s something you can live with.  If they’re still in love with you and you think you can make it work, then you should give it another shot.
None of them are necessarily true, but you can only act on what you perceive.  Maybe you’re being too thin-skinned, maybe you’re approaching her in a way that turns her off, maybe you’re being too optimistic about the love they still have for you.
I ask questions that help them zero in on reality, hopefully, but I don’t take anyone’s story completely at face value – not even my wife’s.  There’s always room for error.  There’s always the other person’s side, which usually has some grains of rebuttal in it.
That’s not a bad thing.  But it means when I chat with someone, I’m not seeing the truth, but rather one bit of it.  So when I walk away, I’ve merely collected a data point, nothing more, nothing less.

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