AdviceHey, Bonita!

Keeping Clear Communication

I have a bad conversational habit that I’m afraid makes me seem full of myself or self-centered. Whenever someone is talking about a problem or sharing a bad experience, my first instinct is to share a similar experience. Like “that reminds me of” or “I went through something like that.” It’s not because I’m trying to shift attention to myself—not that I’m aware of—I just want to share some kind of comfort that they’re not alone or share an experience that could help them with theirs. But I’m not sure if it comes off the right way, and maybe people would rather you just say, “Yeah that sucks” or “Yeah that’s hard.” I’ve become so aware of this habit lately that every time I start doing it, it really stands out to me and makes me self-conscious. What’s the best way to improve my communication?

Lost for Words

Hey there Lost,

I admire your compassion for those who seek out your ear for comfort, venting or otherwise, and it’s in that spirit that you should not be too hard on yourself. You’re describing a very common thing that people do when commiserating, myself included. I share similar experiences to let people know that I’ve been through dumb shit, too, and we’re not weirdos for having our specific shared experience. Bad things happen to us sometimes, but none of us are especially hated by forces of nature.

This “habit” makes you feel self-conscious, but don’t assume it’s a bad thing unless someone is telling you directly that they don’t like that kind of reaction—and some folks really don’t. Unless you’re getting that kind of feedback, focus instead on managing your own anxiety over this.  When you’re done sharing your similar experience, maybe tack a little “I just want you to know that I’ve been there, too, and I get what you’re going through” onto the end. You’re also being vulnerable and trusting when you open up in response to someone else’s honesty, so be kind to yourself in those moments.

I’m madly in love—I’ve never been so attracted to someone or communicated so clearly. We both go out of our way to do things for [each other] that we’ve never done before, just because we want to. But, there are red flags. I’m more ambitious and hardworking, and I’m not sure the overall quality of life I want will be something they can keep up with. That sounds bad, but I don’t want to get in a situation where I’m bitter because I’m not getting what I want out of life or expecting more out of them than they want out of life. I don’t see this changing. Thinking about separating from them makes me sick and breaks my heart, but I don’t know what else to do. I’ve never been in a situation where I still love someone so much and feel like it’s best to break up, usually it’s because I’ve lost feelings, etc.


Hey Anon,

You’re in a tough spot that lots of partnered people with clear future plans have to deal with. I’ve ended relationships because it was obvious that my boo and I didn’t want the same things, but I also wasn’t madly in love when I chose a breakup. Sometimes odd couples will mature together and end up matching each other’s speeds, but I trust you when you say you don’t see this changing. I say start having more conversations with your partner about your future and your goals. I would hope that they’d talk about those things in terms that make your ongoing relationship a given, or you can just plainly ask them what they want their own future to look like because you want to share yours with them. They don’t have to have plans set in stone, but they also shouldn’t balk at the idea of being with you in some capacity. I would imagine that a direct conversation about your future plans as a couple would bring this issue to the surface and allow you both to deal with it honestly and responsibly.

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