Ask a smart guy without empathy!


Categories: Personal

Okay, here’s a little experiment. One of the problems I have is that my default answers to questions are often Unacceptable in ways that I have a hard time understanding. Why? Because I’m not empathic. When people ask me how to fix problems, I tend to give answers that are… well, too correct but not friendly enough.

Hard to illustrate without examples. So. Pretend that I’m doing an advice column! Send in questions; either email them (tag them as for the blog; questions and answers will be posted here) or post them as comments.

No promises that I’ll get around to this, but I bet I’ll answer at least a few before I get bored.

What you get is an answer that is as correct as I can make it, without any attempt to be nice. This is not what advice columns are normally like, although I suppose Dan Savage has probably done it a bit.

Comments [archived]

From: Linda Seebach
Date: 2011-06-05 03:28:27 -0500

Someone who was once a good friend of mine asked me what I thought about her trying to have a second child. (Her first child was born after a series of miscarriages, and extensive medical interventions enabling her to carry a child to term.) I said, intending to be helpful, that I wasn’t the right person to ask, because I would never have gone throuugh what she did to have a first child, and she was so hurt she never spoke to me again.

From: Annalivia
Date: 2011-06-08 04:12:11 -0500

Hrm. So, advice from Seebs. Imm trying to think of a question that won’t actually upset me if you give me the “wrong” answer. I think the best plan is to steal a problem from someone else’s life so it won’t matter to me :)

Okay – “I” am married and have 1 child, a girl of three. My husband has always been a little …overenthusiastic about drinking. Last night he came home drunk and yelled at my little girl, terrifying her into being non-verbal. I have also found out he drives drunk sometimes when I am not with him. I am becoming concerned about our (and his) safety. What do I do?


disclaimer: I am not married, I do not have a child, and my man doesn’t drink or yell. This is all fiction.

From: seebs
Date: 2011-06-09 21:46:05 -0500

What you do depends on your available resources and goals. The concern about safety suggests that you are viewing yourself and your little girl as a unit, and your husband as a thing separate from that unit. At this point, the question is whether you have some way of keeping fed and sheltered if you leave; you don’t say whether you have a job, or prospects, or family you could impose on. If you are pretty sure you could manage, though, the best strategy is probably to leave first and sort things out later. BUT! Find out what laws are like in your state — in some states, leaving someone prejudices the system against you in terms of divorce settlements.

You may wish to consider trying to get your husband into some kind of treatment program, although the success rates aren’t great and recidivism is a pretty big problem. I would be inclined to suggest that the safety of the little girl suggests that if he wants to clean up, he should do it on his own and away from you and the daughter.

From: Ellen
Date: 2011-06-21 18:22:36 -0500

Linda – I have to think your friend took the statement as a judgment of her actions rather than a statement of your own thresholds. It sounded like a perfectly reasonable answer to me, though.