There are very few phrases that come after that beginning that make me want to do anything other than smack the person speaking. If this phrase disappeared from the English language, people would be much kinder to each other. I promise you this is true. Because anything that comes after those four words? They make you look like an asshole. Seriously. Starting a sentence like this assumes that A) you know more about the subject you are about to discuss and B) that the person you are speaking to is a bit of a simpleton. I mean, really. If you would just X, then everything would be fine! Goodness me!
“If you would just pay your bills on time, you wouldn’t be so stressed!” Dissection needed here. Let’s start with the fact that if I HAD the money, I would have paid my bills on time. It’s the NOT having money that is the stressful part. And every time someone says this to me, I want to look at them and say “SWEET BABY JESUS THIS IS THE ANSWER! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS BEFORE??!” Because I have thought of it before. I am trying to make 1000$ in 1500$ or 3000$ and that shit is hard. Bending time and space might be easier for me at this point. (Part of my fantasy world includes four new tires on my car and all my bills paid by their due date, every month. What a sad little fantasy I have fallen into.) “I have always paid my bills on time and $HORRIBLETHING once happened to me so you have no excuse.” I find that these people have had the good luck and privilege of health and just plain not being in the wrong place, sometimes. You got pulled over and were polite to the cop so you went on your way? Well, isn’t that nice! Once, the same thing happened to me, except the cop was having a bad day and decided I didn’t get a warning, I got 7 tickets. Because he was an asshole who didn’t like my hair color. (This is an actual story in which I learned what is and isn’t a felony and calling a cop a bigoted asshole was NOT a felony, at the time. The judge was impressed I had done my homework and threw out all 18 tickets I got in 7 days. It’s called harassment. And after a while it was just funny.)
“If you would just” are the words that belittle the thing that has happened to the other person. Be it health issues, legal troubles, money, kids being idiots… It takes what they are sharing with you and what to them is a major issue, you, with four words, relegate it to a small thing that they shouldn’t be making such a big deal out of. After may years of therapy, I have tried hard to let others have their feelings when they express them. I have even asked “Are you wanting supportive friend, proactive friend or friend with a tarp and a shovel? Do you want advice or sympathy? Because I can do both rather well.” Instead of listening and helping your friend or family member feel better about a bad thing, you are being the jerk who has decided that their problem isn’t worth real input. And I left out a phrase in there because I wanted to put in another paragraph that is JUST for this part of the input from you, who has started with the 4 Hated Words.
So, your friend tells you about a situation that sucks. That is painful emotionally. That is expensive and may even be causing them physical pain. And it is a direct result of their own stupid behavior. Guess what – THEY ALREADY KNOW THIS. You don’t need to tell them. You don’t need to chide them for their stupid behavior. Believe me – BELIEVE ME – we know we fucked up and it lead to this. I just looked at my bank account and realized I made a mistake that cost me an extra 25 bucks for overdraft. And if I had just paid attention, this wouldn’t have happened. It was my very own fault. I know this. And if I talk to you about it, I probably already know it and am looking for a little sympathy or a There There with optional head pat. I don’t want to hear about your budget sheet you would be HAPPY to send me and that if I would JUST make a budget and stick to it, this wouldn’t be an issue. Oooooooor, yes, thanks, and go fuck yourself. (80% of the shitty things that have happened to me in my life are direct results of my own stupid choices. Or bad choices. Or no choices at all. And I find that’s true for most people. Don’t stop it from sucking, but at least I am a little enlightened about it.)
And say that this person has come to you time and again with the same problems. The same complaints. And you are not feeling charitable about continuing to listen to them. Did you know that there are other phrases that a therapist can teach you for detaching yourself from the situation? I sure do. And so does my friend Tee. We both know how to say “I’m sorry. I just don’t have it in me right now to help you with this. It seems to be a recurring issue and I am feeling pretty done in, myself, emotionally. I can’t be the friend you need right now. And I don’t know when I will be able to be, again.” That sounds amazingly more adult than “You’ve fucked yourself over again and I’m tired of dealing with your whinging. Go bitch to someone else.” Here is where yours truly admits to saying the second thing and not the first and left scorched earth behind her in a relationship that never really recovered. It is a matter of choice of how you want to pause this relationship in question. And it’s so very hard to be the adult. So god damn hard.
But back to the Four HorseWords of the Bitchocolypse. Don’t start with them. Use this as a jumping off point to understand that the problem someone is bringing to you may be a mask for one that is so deep and so scary that all she can do is bitch about the water bill not being paid. Maybe she is leaving town to try to get a job and is terrified about the effect it is going to have on her family. But what she *can* say is that she can’t get him to do the god damn cat box. Because that’s an angry thing that is simple and people can relate to. Not the fear and guilt of leaving an autistic child with a father who hasn’t spent the time with him over the last two years that she has and that she is terrified that this may be her last shot at making money for real. And that is when the “Why don’t you just tell him that BLAH BLAH BLAH $CONSEQUENCE.” is not helpful. Because she’s done all that. And she doesn’t know how to give voice to the fear and the anxiety of the Real Hard Issues, so she bitches about the everyday ones that are open ended and never ending.
Those four words, in short, make you unkind and dismissive. And hurt other people. They are right up there with suggesting I get a bus schedule to get a job or that I should be willing to accept anything that’s offered. How do you know more than me about the issues I am having trying to get a job. The bus ain’t gonna fix it, sister. And you just let me know what category of friend I have to put you into, now. It isn’t the one I will commit a federal offense for, either. So don’t even ask me.
More on this later when the other pains aren’t chewing at my toes. The little bastards aren’t going away…