I just need to get something off my chest — it’s a phrase we’ve probably all said at some point.
Recently I was talking to one of my oldest dearest friends who is having a rough few months. We were chatting and she was telling about how someone close to her was talking to her about her “situation” and basically just telling her what to do. No sympathy, no gentleness, no I’m so sorry this really sucks for you right now. Just here’s what you should do as if she didn’t have a brain and never considered all of the options of things she could do to solve her own problems.
Basically this person was treating her like a child and getting everything out they thought she should do in her situation. Mind you, she wasn’t asking for advice or help. The “advice” was completely unsolicited.
I don’t remember at what point I learned this but it was probably sometime within the past 10 years. I realized that anytime I feel like “I just need to get something off my chest” that really I (or the person who is feeling that way) probably shouldn’t say what they are about to say. Because almost anything that follows that phrase is probably not going to make the situation better, because if you are feeling like that you probably need to calm down, gather your thoughts, and think about it a little more before you burst out with something that is just your feelings about their situation.
What most people don’t realize is that when they are “getting something off their chest” or giving unsolicited advice to someone that maybe just wants a shoulder to cry on, is that what they are about to say is really just for them. It’s almost always not something that’s going to help the other person or make them feel any better. It’s more for the person saying it to feel like they gave their advice, they said their piece, they did their part.
When we are talking to people we love and want to help or be there for, we really need to think about what we are saying and how we are saying it. Are we saying something that is just for us to feel better, or is it something that will actually make the other person feel better?
Now maybe there are some situations where you should get a little real. Intervention level. Obviously you’ll have to feel out each situation. But in a lot of cases there are much better ways to support people rather than making them feel worse about themselves by telling them what you think they should do, especially if they never asked you for help in the first place. There’s always a kind way to see if people would like your help with things. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they just need you to be there for them, listen to them, comfort them.
Just something to think about…