Author Topic: Is it rude not to be comforting?  (Read 8068 times)

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SleepyKitty

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Is it rude not to be comforting?
« on: August 25, 2012, 07:00:09 PM »
I wanted to run this situation by everyone and see what you thought - this involves my BF, so I put it in the D@ting folder, but it could just as easily have been a friend or family member in this situation, so mods please feel free to move if it would be more appropriate elsewhere.

I spoke to BF earlier in the day and everything seemed fairly normal. He's been stressed about a recent situation lately, but he said he'd call me later today and we'd make plans or get together or something. I didn't hear from him, so at dinnertime I called him. He was upset and kind of freaking out about this situation, but wasn't saying much about it, so I didn't believe he needed to vent or just needed someone to listen to him for awhile, since, well, he wasn't saying anything! (An example - I would ask a question, "Well, did you try X?" ... long silence until he responded "Yeah.") I was also at a loss of what to say to him about it, because frankly I see this situation as one of his own making and really had no helpful advice to offer him. I couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound like, "Well I told you so!" or "You made your bed, so lie in it."

I wanted to say something comforting, but I didn't know what to say. The truth is, everything will probably not be alright - but of course I didn't want to say that! I ended up saying that I was sorry there was nothing I could do to help and he should call me if he wanted company or dinner or something and then go off the phone. When I'm upset, I usually just want to be left alone, so I made it clear to him he could call me whenever if he wanted to talk and left him alone, thinking do unto others.

He called me a few minutes ago and said that it was rude of me to have "hurried off the phone" and that I should have stayed on the line and talked to him about the situation and comforted him, and that if someone says they are upset about something, it's rude to brush them off and not talk about it with them. At first I was defensive, but then I thought about it some more and I thought maybe he does have a point.

So tell me, EHellions - is it rude not to comfort someone when you know they are stressed or upset? (Assuming, of course, it's someone you care about - not a random stranger telling you their terrible life story.) Or is it rude to comfort someone by saying something that you strongly believe not to be true? (For example, saying everything will be ok when it really won't be.) When I'm not sure how to behave or what to say, I always try to fall back on etiquette, but maybe this is a situation without clear etiquette rules?


Surianne

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2012, 07:27:43 PM »
I don't think it's a matter of rudeness or politeness, but of kindness within a relationship -- if you care about someone, it makes sense to try to help him to feel better.  In the future if you don't know what to do, this is a perfect situation for saying something like "What can I do to help?" and listening to him, rather than assuming that what you would like (to be left alone) is also what he would like.

Ceallach

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2012, 07:35:16 PM »
You don't need to lie or give false hope, but yes brushing off a persons distress could definitely be see as rude.

I would try asking them outright what you can do to help. Perhaps they need a distraction?  If they're overwhelmed it can be a kindness to say "how about I take you out to a movie so you can relax?" or similar.

My point is just that you're not stuck sitting there in silence feeling annoyed.  If you care about the other person you can think outside the box and try to find a way to help them feel better, even though you can rarely fix the actual situation that's upset them.
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Iris

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2012, 07:44:17 PM »
To me (disclaimer: I'm a bit of a meanie) it depends on how you said the things you said. "I'm sorry there's nothing I can do to help" Can be said as a dismissive statement or it can be a genuine expression of regret depending on tone. Similarly "Well call me if you need anything". If you said these things as genuine offers of sympathy and help and *paused* to allow him to express any needs he had then I think you're good. He could easily have said "I just really need to talk right now" assuming you gave him the chance to do so.

I'm like you, I usually *don't* want to talk about it if something is upsetting me and personally I would find it rude if someone pressed the issue. So it certainly isn't a blanket etiquette rule that if someone is upset it's rude not to talk about it with them. I think it's nice to give them the *opportunity* to do so (see above) but it's not required by etiquette.

So, in summary - this sounds like a communication/relationship issue. You and your BF seem to have different needs when you are upset. If those needs aren't communicated then how is the other person supposed to fill them? Some time when neither of you are upset I think you need to establish some ground rules for this kind of thing. If you don't want to talk about what is upsetting you you need to let him know and vice versa.
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Winterlight

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2012, 07:46:19 PM »
I think this was a case of crossed wires, not rudeness- you were trying to do what you thought he'd want, and he actually wanted something different. In future, you now know to ask if he'd like to vent, or brainstorm, or go do something to take his mind off things.

However, I admit that sitting there hanging on the phone while he was being silent would drive me bananas, too!
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To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
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Raintree

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2012, 11:56:46 PM »
I'm with you, OP. He wasn't saying anything, so how were you to know he wanted you to stay on the line and "talk"? I might have interpreted his lack of conversation as, "I just want to be left alone."

I once dated a guy who seemed to expect me to just know, intuitively, what he wanted all the time, and would I ever get reamed out if I got it "wrong." It was exasperating. I don't know if your BF is like that, but I think he needs to at least realize that you can't read his mind and if he wanted to talk, he should have, you know...talked. 

Sharnita

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2012, 12:08:40 AM »
It sounds like the stereotypical male/female roles were reversed in this interaction.  Men are frequently accused of trying to solve the problem and/or not listening and paying attention tho the feelings.  I don't know that he needed to hear that this was about whether everything will be OK or finding a solution.  I think you can say thinkgs like "I'm sorry you are feeling so stressed over this"

Pippen

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2012, 12:36:56 AM »
Stress does funny things to people and makes them react to small perceived slights in ways you can't anticipate. You are probably his 'safe person' so when he is frustrated or upset you end up copping it.

Even though you know people well you never truly understand things from their POV no matter how sympathetic you are. Also if you have been hearing about this situation a lot you may be well over it by now and not interested in having anything more to do with it. Constant talking about problems and rehashing them often makes the problem seem insurmountable and can be incredibly draining. It hardly ever achieves anything valuable in helping it move forward.

Whatever the issue is I hope you guys get some resolution on it soon so you can put it behind you and get back to the fun, happy times.

O'Dell

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2012, 01:11:57 AM »
I don't think it's a matter of rudeness or politeness, but of kindness within a relationship -- if you care about someone, it makes sense to try to help him to feel better.  In the future if you don't know what to do, this is a perfect situation for saying something like "What can I do to help?" and listening to him, rather than assuming that what you would like (to be left alone) is also what he would like.

I agree with this. The "What can I do to help?" is a very good way to handle it. I've been known to throw out suggestions if the other person seems at a loss: Would you like to just sit here quietly? Something to drink? Even if you are on the phone it can be nice to be quiet and know that there is someone on the other end "with" you.

I have a hard time telling people it will be okay if it won't be. A couple of times I've seen people lose it when people have said that and it was obviously not going to end well. One option is "You/we will get through this. It will be hard, but I/others will be there with you and will help you."
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Pippen

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2012, 02:27:17 AM »
I don't think it's a matter of rudeness or politeness, but of kindness within a relationship -- if you care about someone, it makes sense to try to help him to feel better.  In the future if you don't know what to do, this is a perfect situation for saying something like "What can I do to help?" and listening to him, rather than assuming that what you would like (to be left alone) is also what he would like.

I agree with this. The "What can I do to help?" is a very good way to handle it. I've been known to throw out suggestions if the other person seems at a loss: Would you like to just sit here quietly? Something to drink? Even if you are on the phone it can be nice to be quiet and know that there is someone on the other end "with" you.

I have a hard time telling people it will be okay if it won't be. A couple of times I've seen people lose it when people have said that and it was obviously not going to end well. One option is "You/we will get through this. It will be hard, but I/others will be there with you and will help you."

Excellent advice and a great approach to deal with people facing a tough time. The "Oh everything will be OK" is kind of dismissive and doesn't seem genuine.

grannyclampettjr

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2012, 09:35:34 AM »
I don't mean what I am about to say as a slam against men.  I actually think the following is kind of cute. 

Some men when they are upset kind of revert to childhood.  They "lose their words" and just want comfort from Momma.  They don't want to talk and they do want to talk at the same time.  They don't know how to express what they are feeling and why--all they want is for someone they love to be there for them without judgement.   

OP, would you say what you said to a 5 year old who went to you for a kiss on his boo boo, even if it was imaginary?  I bet not.  Your boyfriend went to you for comfort, which is a good thing.  He trusts you and feels safe with you.  Don't ruin that. 

If you are not comfortable being a grown man's Momma at times, well...you will be hard pressed to find a man who doesn't need a Momma figure on some level when they are upset.  If he's reasonably grown up most of the time, then find it in your heart to be comforting, not throw the cold hard truth in his face.  I don't understand the point of that. 


Sharnita

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2012, 09:55:34 AM »
I don't think wanting comfort is reserved to men nor is it a childhood kind of thing.  Maybe women are "allowed" to ask for and offer comfort to each other while society tends to expect men to "man up" and not be emotionally vulnerable.

SleepyKitty

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2012, 10:07:33 AM »
I don't think it's a matter of rudeness or politeness, but of kindness within a relationship -- if you care about someone, it makes sense to try to help him to feel better.  In the future if you don't know what to do, this is a perfect situation for saying something like "What can I do to help?" and listening to him, rather than assuming that what you would like (to be left alone) is also what he would like.

I agree with this. The "What can I do to help?" is a very good way to handle it. I've been known to throw out suggestions if the other person seems at a loss: Would you like to just sit here quietly? Something to drink? Even if you are on the phone it can be nice to be quiet and know that there is someone on the other end "with" you.

I have a hard time telling people it will be okay if it won't be. A couple of times I've seen people lose it when people have said that and it was obviously not going to end well. One option is "You/we will get through this. It will be hard, but I/others will be there with you and will help you."

Excellent advice and a great approach to deal with people facing a tough time. The "Oh everything will be OK" is kind of dismissive and doesn't seem genuine.

This is really good advice. I knew I came here for a reason. :) I personally hate it when people tell me things will be okay when it's clear that they won't be - just like Pippen said, it seems really dismissive and like you're de-legitimizing the problem. This alternative wording works much better for me.

Just to throw out a few minor details - my tone of voice on the phone was gentle and I was trying to convey a supportive vibe. Pippen was right as well that this is in ongoing problem, and I think he has worked himself into believing that there are no options and there's no point in trying because nothing will work anyways. I deal with stress totally differently, so I was just at a loss of what to say that wouldn't be the cold hard truth!

Amava

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2012, 11:41:09 AM »
Some men when they are upset kind of revert to childhood.  They "lose their words" and just want comfort from Momma.  They don't want to talk and they do want to talk at the same time.  They don't know how to express what they are feeling and why--all they want is for someone they love to be there for them without judgement.   

I'm female and I can get like that, too.
Sometimes when I'm upset or stressed about something, I'm just exhausted from thinking and talking about it, and I want comfort without having to rehash it all. Or feeling secure that when I do talk, it's okay if I don't make sense.

Ceallach

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2012, 01:39:30 AM »
I think it's important to realise that there are no "rules" for something like this.  Sometimes, I want help solving a problem.  Other times, I want sympathy.   Other times, I want a distraction, some company, some support.   Fortunately I've learnt over the years to be really good at communicating my needs so that DH can work out which I'm after without playing that dreaded game.   ;D

But it also means I realise that he has the same needs.  Part of my role is to help identify what he needs and help to meet that need.  Is it my responsibility?  Well, not really.  He is an independent individual and he *should* be able to communicate his needs.  But as a loving partner I care about his happiness so I will go out of my way to try to meet his needs even when he isn't able to vocalise them.  And unfortunately it's not always as easy as asking, sometimes it means trying 1 tactic, and if it's not working then trying another.   It's hard sometimes.  But sometimes just making that effort helps in itself, by reminding them that somebody cares about their happiness.
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