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Have you ever dealt with someone who says they want advice to solve a problem, but when you give them that advice, they either come up with a slew of excuses or they just get angry? Do any of these statements sound familiar?
“I’ve already tried that.”
“He/she won’t listen. I can’t talk to them.”
“Counseling doesn’t work.”
“He/she will get mad at me if I say that.”
These are just a few examples. People who vent all their problems to you but aren’t willing to take any positive steps to correct those problems are “dumping” their problems onto you. I learned all about psychological “dumping” after going through it for close to twenty years. I was literally to the point of banging my head against the wall in my attempts to deal with this behavior. Little did I know at the time that I was powerless to change it.
For pretty much the entire length of my marriage, some of my ex-husband’s family members would vent to us about issues within the family and asked for advice on how to deal with those issues. Each time I offered advice, I was met with resistance – either a non-stop flow of excuses or an outburst of anger or resentment. Even though it was a constant struggle, I offered my advice each time I was asked, hoping the reception to my comments would change. But it never did. I became more and more frustrated until finally, I did the right thing – I made the decision to stop listening and to stop giving advice. When I made this decision, my father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I was dealing with my own health issues. I didn’t have the time or energy to ride on this non-stop merry-go-round that went nowhere. I didn’t realize until later (after years of counseling) that this was probably the healthiest thing I ever did regarding their “dumping” behavior. However, after this decision, the relationships spiraled downward until divorce was inevitable. Actually, the divorce was the result of an affair, but it also became clear through counseling that the above dysfunctional behavior also played a major role. I learned all about narcissism (I had been in a very narcissistic environment) and realized that the lack of attention as a result of my decision was more than likely taken as an insult even though it was healthy for me.
I am so thankful that I was able to get out of this relationship as I realized that I was in a very unhealthy and narcissistic environment. I learned that those who vent but get upset or come up with non-stop excuses when confronted with sound advice are not emotionally healthy. They are in denial. They are only interested in surrounding themselves with others who will unconditionally approve of everything that they do even if the behavior is not in their best interest. They don’t want to fix the problem – they only want to hear that everything they are doing is good and right. They want constant sympathy, and they don’t want to take any hard or challenging steps to correct any problems that may be the result of their own behavior. Because of this, their problems will never go away. Only when they face the fact that they may have to take a good hard look at their own behavior and make changes will the problems improve.
I have since encountered some others with this same type of behavior. Instead of banging my head against the wall like I did in my marriage, I just walked away. I didn’t want the headache. For me, I want to nurture healthy relationships, and although I do care about these individuals, I can’t solve their problems. They have to make the decision to take the necessary steps to improve their own lives. Although this was my way of dealing with it, walking away is only one option in dealing with people who “dump” on others.
Another option, according to Psychology Today, is to respond to the person from an emotional stance. A response such as “I’m really sorry you are going through that” without accompanying advice on how to fix it is advised. Offering advice on how to fix it will just lead to headaches and frustration on your end, and it will feed into their dysfunction. For more information, see the article listed at the bottom of this blog.
Remember, if someone isn’t willing to look at themselves and are insistent in staying in a state of denial, there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Change has to come from them, and until that day comes, nothing is going to change no matter what you do. Change will only happen when THEY decide to take a good look at themselves and take positive steps to make a difference.