(Riker)”Well, for instance… there was this example about a woman being criticized unduly by her supervisor. And she comes and tells me about it.”
(Troi)”Yes, I know the scenario. And let me guess: you came up with ways to solve her problem.”
“And the text informed you this was the wrong approach.”
“And you don’t know why.”
“Right. So what can possibly be wrong about wanting to solve her problem, instead of just moaning and wailing about it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with it, if that’s what she wanted. But that’s not what she wanted. The problem is that you’re insensitive to her desires.”
“Insensitive?” Riker propped himself up on his elbow. “How was I being insensitive? I listened to her difficulties and tried to make her life better for her.”
“She wasn’t asking you to do that.”
“But if she–look, let’s make up a name for her… ‘Jane’…”
“Catchy name,” said Deanna dryly.
“If Jane came to me with her problem, obviously she was coming for help in solving it. That’s a given.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes it is,” he insisted. “Look… if a technician goes to the chief engineer and says there’s trouble with the warp core, the chief engineer isn’t going to say, ‘Oh, what a shame, that’s too bad, I know how difficult this must be for you.’ He’s going to say, ‘We’ve got to get that fixed!’ A busted engine, an abusive boss… it all boils down to the same thing. Namely, a bad situation that needs to be repaired.”
“You’re missing the point, Will.”
“No, I’m not missing the point.” He turned over to face her. Their bodies were now pressed up against each other, flesh to flesh. And incredibly, Riker wasn’t paying attention. “You’re just being obstinate.”
“And you’re in command mode, Will. The universe isn’t Starfleet. Emotions aren’t regulated. And Jane, as you call her, wasn’t looking for you to solve the problem.”
“Then why in hell did she come to me!” demanded Riker.
“She came to you because she was looking for emotional support,” said Deanna patiently. “She knew she had a problem. She knew it had to be solved; or perhaps she wasn’t going to solve it but simply live with it. Either way, though, she had to deal with it in her own way because it was her problem. What Jane was looking for from you was an augmentation of her emotional strength. She needed you to say that you were sympathetic to her difficulties and were supportive of her. This is the philosophy of RaBeem, which, simply translated, means ‘I understand.’ An even better way to handle it is to tell her of a time when you faced a similar situation–“
“And describe how I solved it?”
“And describe how it made you feel. So she knows that whatever frustration and embarrassment she might be encountering is not unique to her. When you’re unhappy or discouraged, it’s very easy to believe that you’re the only person in the world who has ever felt this way. Teenagers experience that feeling most sharply, but adults do also. And what Jane was simply looking for was a sense that she was not alone.”
“But… but then how does the problem get solved?
“It gets solved by her, in whatever manner she chooses. And she’s also looking to you to say that whatever she does, you will support her because it’s the action that she has decided to take.”
“I’m still not sure I get it.”
“Oh, you’re starting to.” Deanna smiled. “You just haven’t admitted it.”
-Star Trek The Next Generation: Imzadi- By Peter David
Like young Riker, I often give advice, unasked. I know sometimes people just want empathy, but if I have experiences with what they’re talking about, I find it almost impossible to share what I know. Part of that is I’m finally at a point in my life where I feel like I know what I’m doing with my life, and I’m happy with my life, as a whole. Sure, there are little frustrations, but they’re minor in the scheme of things. Part of it is also that I learned a LOT the hard way. So if I can use that to help others, and spare them the dramas that I had to deal with, why wouldn’t I?
I’ve gotten used to having the answers, or at least being able to find them. I blame working in customer service for too many years. I was taught, solve the problem. Whatever they’re coming in for, or calling for, figure it out as fast as possible, and don’t waste your time or theirs. Especially when I worked in a call center, I was constantly rewarded for being the fastest on my team. It’s not that I couldn’t sympathize with the callers, I could. But once you hear the same situation 200 times, the sympathetic “oh dear” and “sorry to hear that” are just interjected while you get to the screen you need to fix their problem. I could often, within seconds of verifying whatever account info, tell exactly what they needed, and how to get to it. I like being that good at my job. I like knowing things inside out.
With writing too, it’s so easy to give advice. I started writing over 10 years ago, and while thus far, I’ve only had something in an anthology, I’ve had a lot of experiences. From people plagiarizing my work (As in literally, flipping two character’s names around, because she didn’t like my pairing. Ah, fanfic drama!), to writers groups, to wonderful crit partners, to publishing, and so many things between. Even if I haven’t experienced it first hand, I probably know someone who has, or read a blog on the subject from an expert. So it’s incredibly hard for me not to chime in.
TL;DR? I offer advice, when I’m not asked for it. If it bugs you, please call me out on it, and I’ll try to watch for it with you. 🙂