Sometimes I feel like I’m walking through life on the outside looking in. Everywhere I go, I notice things that can change, for the better.
For example, at a restaurant I’ll notice that instead of just bringing sugar and sweetener with the hot coffee and tea, the server waits until the patrons request it. I wonder why the server doesn’t just bring it?
Or a situation will arise at work, and I’ll think, ‘why don’t you just do it this way?’ I want to say something, but then I think people will think I’m annoying.
How do I know when to speak up and when to keep my thoughts to myself?
It sounds like you have a lot of constructive criticism. Constructive is positive, but criticism, not so much. People don’t take well to being criticized.
I suggest you start off your conversation with something positive and try to read the person with whom you’re speaking. Try to get a feel for them and how they’ll react.
For example, if you ask to speak to the manager of the restaurant, and s/he comes at you defensive, probably just keep your thoughts to yourself. But if s/he seems friendly, tell him how fabulous your meal was, including the hot drink at the end and then suggest that perhaps it would make sense for the server to bring sugar to the table with the drinks.
Some people will appreciate your thoughtfulness; others won’t. Think it through before you speak up.
FEEDBACK Regarding the teenage daughter who went away and came back changed (Oct. 18):
“When I read the headline for this letter, I was quite interested to hear your thoughts, as I too am a single father who struggles with my teenage daughter. She is also sullen and quiet with me, and I struggle to reach out for a conversation with her. I am always on the lookout for good information about relating to teens.
“Your answer only covered ‘the birds and the bees’ aspect of his daughter entering puberty. And you politely told him that as a man he can't have that conversation by himself. I won't argue that - I know that young girls are not generally comfortable talking to their fathers about these topics.
“The most important part of his letter was his struggle to connect with his daughter. It's probably a multi-faceted issue, and I'm sure it can't be solved in a quick letter exchange. There are big gaps in the details, especially the father's relationship with the mother.
“My best advice is for him to book a few sessions alone with a child psychologist. He can explain his challenges in detail and a good psychologist can give him pointers to set him on the right course and build his confidence as a parent. Although I still struggle with my daughter, and probably always will, in a lot of ways this kind of help has made the situation better for me.”
Lisi – There was no mention of the mother on the scene. I didn’t tell the father he couldn’t have the conversation alone with his daughter. I suggested he could turn to a female friend or family member and ask for tips.
FEEDBACK Regarding the mom afraid of the new household puppy (Oct. 17):
“This person may have a dog phobia, which often starts in childhood, can have a genetic component, and feels terrifying even when faced with the most friendly or small dog. The good news is that this phobia, like most, is highly treatable. She may benefit from a few sessions with a psychologist trained in treating phobias. She could be cuddling her pup in no time!”
Lisi – This from a clinical and health psychologist. Great news.
Our family recently learned of my daughter’s ex-boyfriend’s death. This young man abused my daughter and was convicted for this crime. He grew up under terrible circumstances, unforgivable to his family and foster family for various harms.
My brave daughter ended the relationship once the physical abuse started. We’re very proud of her for having the strength to say no. This was four years ago; the last time we saw him.
There is no joy in this, just a feeling of sadness, anger and disappointment.
Is it reasonable to now exhale and be happy that it is over?
Lost in transition
Yes, it is normal for you to breathe more peacefully under these sad circumstances. That doesn’t make you a bad person, just human.
Your description is of a young man caught in a vicious cycle of learned abuse. Sadly, he couldn’t break that cycle. There’s no winner here.