If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. - Abraham Maslow
I tend to vocalize little everyday problems. Usually they don't mean much to me - a mosquito bite, a spot on my shirt, an appointment I don't want to keep. Most of those problems are tiny. Even my big problems are small, really, in the scope of the whole universe. I just keep forgetting to keep my little issues to myself.
There are three basic ways that people respond to the mention of a problem; they change the subject, they sympathize, or they suggest solutions. The first two responses are really the best and most sensible, in my humble opinion. If I am so foolish as to assume that I have a problem important enough to take up any "space" in someone else's thought waves, it is really best for all if that someone maintains sensibility and ignores me or just expresses some form of compassion and moves on.
For the most part, I can handle the majority of my own problems, small or large. Unless I directly ask for assistance, in which case I acknowledge that I have no idea how to help myself, I don't generally need to be told what to do. Yet, so many times, in casually noting a small personal issue, I regret to find I have conjured a reluctant and agitated hero.
What are the signs?
An aggressive showering of overly pugnacious advice that starts to sound more like "Do as I say and shut up. Case closed."
I wish so much that I could remember only to say pleasant things or nothing at all. Why in the course of the day I would feel the need to tell anyone anything that doesn't concern them, I do not know. Perhaps it's only conversation. It might be just a case of carelessly thinking out loud. Why does anyone need to know that my head hurts, I have a hole in my sock, or my tea went cold?
Once, a long time ago, I expressed to a wise friend my desire to tell a certain person what I thought they should do to solve a problem, and my friend asked me something I have never forgotten.
"Who are you to try and take away somebody else's lesson?"
Many problems don't have much of a lesson, though. Remember to look at your socks in the light to see if they are black or blue. Laugh at yourself if you forget.
My father, whom I've been missing for four years now, once asked me to make him a business card. In the middle it had his name, beneath which was the title, "Professional Listener." In the corners it said, No Advice, No Opinion, No Judgement, No Response. It was a joke, of course, but it was inspired by how so many people, many of them strangers, would often choose him to receive their life stories. Being a good listener is a talent and it will get you a lot of business - even when you aren't charging!
We all need each other. There is no doubt about that. We help each other, we support each other, we validate each other. Sometimes we may even need a leg up. But, the most important thing we can do for each other is to just be there. I don't really need to be told to take an aspirin, change my socks, or put my tea in the microwave. I was only being human and imperfect, (and maybe annoying,) in mentioning such little insignificant problems. It's something to work on indeed.
In the mean time, I hope everyone will join me in the effort to replace all negativity with a response of compassion. No opinion, just sympathy. No judgement, just understanding. No advice, just friendship.