Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stop Telling Me I Worry Too Much

Dear World (and all the People):

I hate when you tell me I shouldn't worry so much.

*Image from http://www.mrmen.com
Case in point: A superior delivers ambiguously bad news, requests that we meet to discuss it, but cannot meet until five days later, at the earliest. When I ask for preliminary details to quell my wild imagination, I'm told this is not possible (fair enough) and also that I shouldn't fret before our meeting.

Ah, yes. How silly of me. Here, let me just turn the dial back.

Consider that your hasty advice, while offered with good intentions, sucks.

Consider what you're essentially suggesting is that I disavow my natural, emotional response to the situation. Oh, that's not what you meant? Then what did you mean?

Consider that I already know my anxiety has little practical value in this matter, may even make things more difficult, but is nonetheless irrepressible... and while the anxiety may be managed to some degree, I hardly need you to remind me to do so. I've been managing worry, in fact, for most of my adult life, and if I had a nickel for every time some polite but patronizing soul said or implied that I worry too much, well, I'd still be an anxious man (just a filthy rich one).

Consider that, if you'd have told me the day before the earliest possible meeting instead of five days, you might have spared me most of very anxiety you're suggesting I simply dismiss.

Consider that this consolation you offer may be more comforting to you than to me. And if you believe wholeheartedly that the situation doesn't merit the level of emotional response you're observing in me, consider explaining why, for the love of Jove, instead of assuming I know what you know.

Consider that other disavowing tidbits, like "Don't cry," and "Don't get angry," and "Don't think so much," may be just as unhelpful, and taking a second or two to find a better consolation --- like "I'm sorry to see you so upset," or even, "I'm surprised to see you this upset. Tell me why." --- may make a huge difference.

How could you possibly consider all that before you offer a simple consolation?

That depends. If you actually care --- and I trust that you do --- then never mind how. (Don't worry so much about it, if that helps you.) Just try.

On the other hand, if you didn't really care that much to begin with, then perhaps it's better to say nothing at all. Personally I'd prefer sincere disinterest over insincere consolation.

Thanks for listening,

Jim

"The worst vice is advice."
- Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate

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