Why do people ask for advice they have no intention of following? Or seek opinions they don’t really want?
A friend and I go to lunch, and over plates of Thai chopped chicken salad she tells me her problems; I listen attentively. I offer thoughtful (I hope) advice. She chews, nods, listens. We finish our lunch, and with a sincere thank you as we leave, she says ‘You know, you’re absolutely right. I’m taking your advice.’
Then she goes ahead and does whatever it was she intended to do (or not do) in the first bloody place.
Of course, I’m guilty of the same thing whenever I ask my husband for his opinion. He knows that when I look at him and say innocently, ‘Tell me the truth – is my butt bigger than New Jersey in these jeans?’ I really don’t want honesty.
Lie to me, please, damn it. It’ll go so much better for you if you do.
One of my friends is despondent. His girlfriend of several years just broke things off, without any warning, and he can’t quite come to grips with it. By his own admission, he took her for granted for months; now that she’s gone, he’s sorry, he’s realized the error of his ways, and he desperately wants her back.
So he sends her ninety-seven heartfelt, rambling texts and emails and phone messages telling her he’s sorry and he’s wrong and he desperately wants her back.
I advise him to back off, to quit sending her lengthy texts and leaving 20-minute messages on her phone. ‘She’ll think you’re a psycho stalker,’ I snap. ‘Give it some time.’
‘You’re right,’ he says, and nods glumly. ‘I need to play it cool. Absolutely. Give her some space.’
And what does he do? He goes home that same night and sends her five more texts and leaves another couple of long, ‘ oh-babe-I’m-so-sorry-take-me-back-please’ phone messages for good measure.
Hmm… maybe I should use reverse psychology and tell him, ‘Here’s what I think you should do – inundate her with long, needy emails and whiny phone messages! Smother her in your desperation! Girls love that sort of thing. It works every time.’
So… if you want my advice, fine. I’m ready to listen.
But if you just want me to tell you what you want to hear, go and talk to my husband.
He’ll be more than happy to tell you your butt looks great in those jeans.