Clouding The Issue With Logic

Do you have a problem solver in your life? No, I’m not talking about someone who tackles the logistics of a trip or troubleshoots a circuitry problem with your garage door opener. I’m talking about the person who—when you say, “Brr, I’m cold!”—suggests you put a jacket on.

You do, don’t you? So do I.

My dad was my first problem-solving specialist. “Daddy,” I’d say, as I slowly rotated my arm backwards, “it hurts when I move my arm like this.”

“Well don’t move your arm like that.”

Stare.

I guess I was hoping he’d say, “I’m sorry, Sweetie” but no, he chose to cloud the issue with sound logic.

Similarly, when I say I’m cold, I’m just seeking camaraderie. Because, as it turns out, I actually know my options for warming up.

camyeah

I used to think it was a guy thing—that they were more hard-wired to be solution-oriented and less inclined to devote time to seemingly idle chit-chat. Most guys never seemed to put much stock in volleying corroborative observations just for the sake of interaction (i.e. I’m tired … Me, too! I’ve been hot all day … Right? Bring on fall. I’m starving … Same here, I must have a tape-worm.)

But lately I’ve come across more and more women who have multiple solutions to my problems.

Me: I’m so sleepy today.
Problem-Solving Guru Girl: Have you had any caffeine?

Me: The weekends just don’t seem long enough anymore.
Problem-Solving Guru Girl: Do you have any vacation days to tack on to the weekend?

Me: I feel like I’ve been so forgetful lately.
Problem-Solving Guru Girl: Are you sleeping enough? Sleep deprivation can really affect your memory. So can low levels of B-12.

My new theory is less gender-centric and more brain-specific. I think people who are literal are the ones most eager to impart helpful solutions.

I’m not very literal-minded, so I tend to think my conversation partner is just wanting to converse—you know, banter back and forth with no real intent to wrap things up quickly. If she says, “Ugh, I so hate Mondays.” I’m pretty sure she just wants to know the feeling is mutual.

By no means do I assume she wants to hear, “You do? Are you unhappy in your job? Have you considered doing something you look forward to rather than something you dread? Do you have an updated resume? One that’s not comic sans?”

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, unless I preface my statement with:

“Hey, let me get your opinion”
or
“I could use some advice”
or
“Tell me how you’d handle this”

… then I’m not actually requesting your nifty problem-solving skills. Anything short of the aforementioned prefaces is just the two of us shooting the breeze. It’s not a covert ploy to get advice.

If we’re hanging out and I say, “I’ve been thirsty all day”, you absolutely have to know that—AS A FULLY GROWN ADULT WHO IS STILL ALIVE—I know how to hydrate myself. So saying, “You should get something to drink” simply isn’t needed. Telling me that “unquenchable thirst” is the #1 symptom of type 2 diabetes is overkill. I was just looking for a friend who wanted to make a Sonic run.

Hey, I like solving (real) problems as much as anyone. The difference is, not being very literal-minded, I don’t hear things like, “I need a pedicure in the worst way” and feel I should spring into action with the remedy, “Day spas offer those—you should book one.”

look at me! I've got answers!

look at me! I’ve got answers!

Of course it goes deeper than this, too. I had a friend tell me about going home after a particularly terrible day at work and just letting loose with everything that went down, why it upset her and how she would properly reflect her feelings on Facebook—until her husband interrupted her—not with exasperation, but with … wait on it … solutions.

His suggestions were logical, on point and precisely fitting—but she wasn’t looking to solve a problem. She was hoping to vent. She was looking for a listening ear.

Operative word: LISTENING. Guys, if you can stomach sacrifice a little chunk of time to just nod and actively listen with your eyes, you might escape with uttering only a handful of words. If you can be present and listen, once she takes a breath finishes, just nod and say, “I hear ya. That would ruin my day, too.”

Bang. You will be amaaazed at how quickly she can wrap it up if you just listen and commiserate with a short, heartfelt, “Yeah, that sucks, Honey—I’m sorry.”

Problem Solvers … if you are even half-way plugged into your partner, you will KNOW when she wants advice or solutions. If you don’t see inquisitive eyes or hear something like, “What should I do?” then always, always opt for simply uniting in fury or disgust or shock with her. Save your commercial-grade problem-solving skills for a time when they’re truly needed—like exacting revenge on people who post/pin pictures of animals with baby-talking captions.

even posting in jest makes me despise myself

even posting in jest makes me despise myself

Non literal-minded people … help out your brethren. They’re not trying to upset you by offering up (obvious) solutions, so let them know—before lift-off—if you just need to vent.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Ok, look. I need to talk, so just let me talk. I’m not asking for a game plan, I just need to vent.” It works. And if, in the middle of your unleashing, they get all Literal-Linda and forget to NOT HELP, shoot them a quick reminder look or press your index finger to their lips. People love that.

ssshhh

ssshhh

The truth is, we all think differently and have unique brains. So in the same way, “You should eat” in response to, “I’m famished” makes me want to hurl a boulder through a window … that same literal-minded person is exhausted by the constant stream of rhetorical banter that flows so freely from my aggravating lips.

Side Note: I think the best, happiest couples are a mix of both types. No matter where we fall on the scale, we all need someone to balance us out. Imagine a world where everyone walked around saying: I’m exhausted. I’m full. My skin is dry. I don’t like to eat broccoli. Ugh, no thank you! But on the flip-side, you can’t have a planet of problem-solvers with no problems to solve.

So, if you’re single, perhaps you should stop looking at what a potential spouse does for a living or how he or she treats the wait staff. Look for your opposite. Somewhere in the middle of your first date, tell them you don’t like your new toothpaste. See if they say, “You should buy a different brand” or “Don’t you hate that?” It might be all you need to know.

Advice To People Who Are Constant Recipients Of Unsolicited Problem-Solving: Be patient and be kind. No one is trying to harm you with help.

Advice To Problem-Solvers: Most people over the age of 3 understand their options for regulating body temperature, quenching thirst, satiating hunger and acquiring rest. For you, in simple terms, that means less trouble-shooting and more nodding … even if in your head you’re thinking, “put a sweater on, drink some Gatorade, eat a corndog, take a nap” … please, just nod and make a supportive noise of some sort.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m thirsty and hungry and need to go tell someone all about it.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

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40 thoughts on “Clouding The Issue With Logic

  1. You’ve got my brain scanning conversations we’ve had. I’m pretty sure I’m mostly on safe ground…..except that the mother instinct does kick in when you say, “I’ve got this deadly sharp pain on the left side of my stomach. 🙂

  2. Me: see a problem, solve a problem.
    You: see a problem, discuss all the different ways that problem has impacted your life and the lives of everyone you have ever known – or ever will know.
    I’d write more but right now I’m thirsty so I think I’ll drink some coca-cola classic – or perhaps I could just explain how it makes me feel to be thirsty – nah, I’m going on a Sonic run!
    Problem solved.
    It makes me feel soooo good to cloud the issue with logic.
    Great post! You make your old ditty laugh out loud.

    • You can go to Sonic w/o me THIS TIME but not to Mr. Burger—that would hurt too much! So how many times would you say (over the last few decades) you’ve responded to all us girls, “Well if you’re cold then put some warmer clothes on”? 1,000x? 5,000x? Awesome 🙂

  3. Oh Anna! Once again you have crawled into the nooks and crannies of my brain and put words (or blog) to my. thoughts. exactly. I don’t want hear “you know what you should do?” Unless I ask, “Hey! What do you think I should do?” So many times I’m just chewing the fat with ya buddy…making conversation…seeing how much we have in common… A few times I’ve piped up with “just listen to me PLEASE, don’t solve my problem” but think I will try the index finger on the lips next time…SHHhhhhhhh! Love your blog so much!!

  4. I agree with the find-your-opposite mentality, it is necessary that my constant neurosis be combatted by logical sense. However; that will not keep me from wanting to ram my fist into the face of my beloved when he responds to my heated rant about workplace politics or family drama with a calm “Well, have you just told them that?” AAARRGHH 🙂 Funny stuff Dubs!

  5. Sometimes I don’t think people are problem solving but feel they must share their expert advice as if telling me to put on a sweatshirt is rocket science. You must have more patience than I do!

  6. LOVE THIS! As a whiner, and general complainer (my whole family is kind of like this), people often mistake my whining and complaining as me wanting their advice or opinion. And, I DID marry my complete opposite (thank goodness). He has learned that I don’t want advice a lot of the time…and sometimes, I just have to tell him that upfront. And, I’ve learned to say to people nicely (like my mother who I am highly sensitive to her advice and opinion) “I just need to vent, I don’t need your advice” and likewise, I try to really think about it before I answer the question, “Do you want my advice?” because many times the answer is no.
    I agree, the line that “AS A FULLY GROWN ADULT WHO IS STILL ALIVE” made me laugh. So true!!

    • Hi! Glad you laughed and glad you met your opposite! It’s so necessary. Once I realized I could announce I was venting and not asking for advice, I was surprised at how much others were willing to just listen! But I have to admit, I’m sometimes a solver 🙂 Sshh, please don’t tell …

  7. Oh, this was perfect. I have been guilty of being a problem solver but hopefully not the kind that says, “drink something.” I like to tackle the bigger issues like, “I don’t know what my life is all about.” ‘I’ll get right in there. Lol! (My new boyfriend is a problem solver deluxe AND he likes to wear a dr.’s hat and dole out bogus medical advice.)
    I’m also guilty of being the rhetorical banter type. I think I’m a good mix of annoyance.

    You’re so right about the problem solver actually being good hearted. As a therapist I can say that most of it comes from anxiety and the need to avoid pain and problems. Annoying? You betcha. 😀

    • I’m the same way … I’ll solve til the cows come home about life issues etc. But like you, I try really hard to keep the “a blanket will help you get warm” comments to myself! As always, thanks for reading!! 🙂

  8. “Daddy,” I’d say, as I slowly rotated my arm backwards, “it hurts when I move my arm like this.”
    “Well don’t move your arm like that.”
    Stare.

    Lol for days! As a person who can fall on either side of the fence here, depending on the conversation, I found myself nodding in agreement and laughing on all points as I read this. Greatness!

    • And as you know, I fall on either side, too (depending on the situation). I think you and I both have given some pretty direct “advice” to people who aren’t really using their brain to make it through life 🙂

      And my dad will love knowing your fave part included his “deep insight” 😉

  9. OMG you totally cracked me up! So much that you said is me in a nutshell! Sometimes we must just talk…. as woman…..or maybe it is JUST ME….and you. Ha ha ha! I live in a house of 3 men and they just don’t GET me and if I hear one more solutions to my “problems” or blank stare when asking a rhetorical question I might just check myself into an insane asylum where I’ll be amongst my peers. Thanks for this well written blog, it was refreshing…. also, thanks for following me! Evie

  10. You just described my father! He’s an engineer, so solving problems is what he does. My mom is the empathy seeker and giver. Some 20-odd years of marriage later and they are still trying to figure each other out. One day they will figure it out and they will be the perfectly balanced couple.

    I’m more an empathy seeker, but I get into these weird literal moods in which I can’t comprehend sarcasm and tend to “help” people. I still don’t understand these moods.

    • Hi there! Isn’t it interesting how we all have problem-solvers and less-problem solvers around us? I think we all balance each other out. Thanks so much for coming by! 🙂

  11. You could not have described my husband any more perfectly. I’m printing this out and taping it to his bathroom mirror so he will understand my daily pain. Thanks my friend 🙂

  12. So…you’re a relationship expert too???? Can I just put you in my pocket and carry you around. I feel as if you would come in very handy on a daily basis. You could both solve and not solve my problems all at once.

Talk to me :)

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