After a protracted period of soul searching and agonizing, I decided to share my feelings with him. I thought about how to phrase it. And then I went for it.
And in response he offered, “For one, you feel like that with me, too, and still isn’t true there. For two, not much I could help with except to say that most people like that you’re a bit pushy with your feelings. People over self-regulate, and you’re good at pushing through that.”
“Well, thank you for the advice,” I replied, “but I’m confused that you gave me advice. Because I was just talking about a feeling, not asking for help with it. But I get the good faith and caring that went into offering advice.”
This did not go well. My response was not well received.
It appears that he did not want advice either.
This Is How It Feels When You Get Advice When You’re Looking for Validation
This is how it feels when you get advice when you’re looking for validation:
“Here are my feelings that I have labored to drag from the deep pits of my consciousness.” I hold them out for introspection.
“Oh those? You don’t need those.” You knock them from my hands.
And like that, everything you worked to excavate is gone.
Now, maybe those feelings were slightly radioactive. Maybe the person who knocked them from your hands was doing you a favor. But it’s still unsettling. Anticlimactic. Difficult. It throws you off at a moment you were already feeling a bit unsteady.
People Sometimes Say That This Is a Gendered Issue — That Men Want Advice and Women Want Validation
Sometimes people present this as a gendered issue, advice versus validation. They say that men are looking for advice in these situations. And women, support.
But I’ve found that isn’t the case either — and men often get just as frustrated when women give them unsolicited advice when they’re seeking emotional support from them.
Men, too, get upset when they were seeking emotional support and someone advises them on how to fix their problems instead (offering solutions they’ve likely considered — as you’ve likely considered the ones that others parade before you).
It doesn’t slice along clear gender lines as neatly as that. It’s messier. Usually is.
Sorry not sorry.
A Simple Workaround
People have advised some various simple workarounds for this issue. The most popular is when a person comes to you, opens up, spills their guts, that you ask them what they want from you.
Something like so:
“Are you looking for advice, validation, or just someone to listen and share space?”
And depending on what they say, you adjust your response.
But if you’re reading this and just want emotional validation, feel free to ignore the advice I just gave. (You may already be doing this workaround anyway.)