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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Friend in Need?

Today's answer comes from Linda.

A Problem:

I believe a friend of mine is in a bad relationship. I don't think it is going to go where she wants it -marriage, kids. He is younger, and less mature. Despite the fact that he has met her parents several times and they live in a different state, she still has not met his even though they live in the same city. It is an acceptance problem; he thinks they will have a problem with my friend because she is not from their home country. Yet he insists that 'when the time is right' he will introduce her. This has been going on for years. The parents don't even know they live together.

I could continue on about their problems, but I want to ask about mine. What do I do as a friend? I have tried being supportive about how she feels at the time -happy for her when she is happy, counselling when she is not. But this has been going on for so long.

She recently said she knows she needs to break up with him. I tried to restrain my excitement, saying yes if will be hard but she deserves so much more.
Next time I talked to her she said things were getting better.

Is there anything I can do other than wait?

An Answer:

How lucky your friend is to have you care about her so much. I can understand how exasperating her situation must be for you.

A simple initial reaction from me could be to gently, suggest that your friend's ‘problems’ are just that, i.e. her problems. As such, she’s the only one that can make choices around her life and solve them. But it’s never that simple when people we care about are involved. It's perfectly understandable that you feel uncomfortable witnessing her unhappiness. It’s so difficult to give advice to our loved ones on important life issues isn’t it? And affairs of the heart are a veritable minefield, likely to explode in your face if you tread too harshly. If your relationship with your friend is good, she may accept some feedback if it’s given kindly - particularly if she’s asked for advice. If she hasn’t, I’d tread much more carefully.

You asked what do you do as a friend, and I’m going to keep it very simple. Keep doing what you’ve been doing: Support her to the best of your ability in whatever she decides to do - whether you think that’s right or not. When we care about people, it’s easy to think that we ‘feel for them’. In reality we can only feel our own feelings. We then project what we might feel in that situation onto the other person. If you’re able to separate what you feel from what your friend feels, it might give you greater objectivity - so you feel less embroiled in it all. This will help you be supportive without having the emotional turmoil yourself.

Is there anything else you can do but wait, you asked? Well, yes, you could focus more on you for a while, so that when your friend does need you, you’re not too drained by her needs to be able to support her.

Good luck.

By Linda.

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I Need Freedom at Work

Today's answer comes from Joe.

A Problem:

Bit of a thorny one, this. I like to think of myself as someone who loves and needs freedom, probably because I have an all too precarious sense of my own independence. So perhaps no big surprise that I've chosen to work in a very heirarchichal corporation that, whilst on the one hand expects its staff to be creative and productive, also at some level requires a high degree of unquestioning compliance with (what I experience as) its byzantine and quite disciplinarian attitudes. I struggle to bridge both aspects.

You won't be surprised to hear that this has led me into some considerable conflict with my (female) line mgmt. I should add that I'm a bloke.

The conflict has recently led to me being disciplined by my mgmt, tho' some of the allegations my mgr made against me have been disproven, and indeed led to her own deputy being disciplined herself. In other words, very conflictual, very nasty, very difficult to move on from and to rebuild trusting, respectful relationships. But make no mistake, I want and need to get out of this hole. I also want to keep my job, because there's a great deal that I enjoy about it.

I'm not saying I'm an innocent party in all this, however I'm certainly not the only cause of the problems.

How do you recommend I try and move forward from here?

An Answer:

Most companies I have worked for are like this. When I first started to work for firms with restrictive attitudes I tried to fight back, but found that there was no sympathy or support from other employees, including other new ones. The first time I ended up quitting and going to a different job, but found that my new place of employment was basically no different than my old one. Many companies later I find that to be true of most organizations. For some reason new people do not change corporate attitudes, but are themselves changed to support them.

I don’t know what type of work that you do, but I am sorry to say that you will also probably have to adapt or find a company that is more progressive. Try to ignore what happened in the past and follow the rules now and in the future. If it comes to the point that you cannot handle the corporate culture then it would be best to be silent and find another job, rather than speaking up or acting ‘incorrectly’ and getting the sack. Unless you were really vocal and created too strong an impression with management then this conflict will be soon forgotten, as long as it does not establish a pattern of conflict. Your past transgressions will be forgotten as long as you ‘toe the line’, realize you will be beaten down, and change to be like everybody else.

By Joe.

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Remember, we are NOT qualified to give you advice. But if you have any problems you would like us to solve, post them here.