My Friend the Lecturer

Posted on July 26, 2021


I’ve been thinking about The Lecturer lately.  The name pretty much bears the description.  The Lecturer doesn’t listen, he lectures, quite often at length.  It can be frustrating, but the way I see it, The Lecturer really wants to help you.  The Lecturer wants you to feel safe and supported because your knowledgeable, proactive friend is here, putting all of his energy into the matter at hand.  Remember, no one gets out of bed in the morning and says themself “I really want to use my energy to make people mad at me today”.  

Often, The Lecturer takes what you have to say, rewrites the story and tells you what’s “really” going on.  Then he will give you advice based on his revised description.  Sometimes this includes, dismissing, minimizing and gaslighting  This is a common tactic with authority figures.  It’s possible that The Lecturer has seen this tactic and has assumed that the authority figures are using it to keep people calm and orderly because panic precedes chaos.  What The Lecturer does not realize is how it feels to be on the receiving end.  It’s invalidating and in a way says “your problem and you are not important”.

What is the antidote?  If you’re The Lecture-ee you might want to ask yourself whether or not it’s wise to talk about sensitive issues with The Lecturer.  Or perhaps instead of bringing up the whole enchilada it might be better to truncate your story and say something like “I had this incident and it really left me feeling upset.”  Then the conversation can be about how you’re processing the matter and dealing with the impact rather than what’s actually going on and what you’re going to do about it.  

I have a very dear Lecturer friend who I just adore.  We have a close honest relationship where I was able to tell him that if you truly want to be helpful, when someone shares something, you have to listen first before giving advice.  I pointed out that when he comes to me with a matter of importance I listen to everything he has to say and after that, I ask him questions.  I’m not saying that being present for someone means being a bucket for them to dump.  You can say, “I understand that part and what about this other thing” if the conversation gets stuck.  Sometimes I remind people that I’m their solution oriented friend.  If they bring a matter to me I’m going to be listening with a focus on problem solving rather than emotional maintenance.  My personal rule is I will listen until people run into a loop and start repeating themselves.

I think if you’re a Lecturer it’s important to consider a little mantra that I live by; “brain to mouth filter activate”. If you’re familiar with my writing you’ve heard this one before.  It gives you a minute to consider your thought, perhaps even vette it before you release it into the world and therefore rendering yourself fully accountable for it.  Another thing to consider,  do not assume you know more about the matter than the person telling you, even if you have a lot of experience in that particular matter. Do not make this assumption even if you’re an expert in the field. When you go to your Dr with a problem even though your Dr has a lot of education and experience, it doesn’t feel very good when they start making all kinds of assumptions based on nothing you’ve mentioned.

Once I’ve heard the story, asked questions and feel I have an understanding I’ll say something like “do you know what you’re going to do about this” or “have you tried anything yet”.  This lets me know where their head’s at.  Do they want to burn the problem to the ground, do they want to walk away, has this been an ongoing issue, what are the themes and consistencies.  One super important thing to consider is whether you have any knowledge on the topic.  Please, if you are not well informed or at least somewhat well informed, don’t start throwing out directives.  I remember this one time I was buying a certain kind of vitamin and because I got them at a discount store, my friend was solidly convinced these vitamins were of poor quality.  He didn’t know what brand they were and had not shopped at this store yet he was fully convinced.  So, don’t do that.

After all of that, if it’s a close friend who comes to me for advice I”ll give my two cents.  If it’s someone I don’t know really well, I’ll say “would you like my advice” or “can I make a suggestion.” That’s how you show up as a good listener and supportive friend and avoid being the Lecturer. 

I have one more thing to add and I think it’s important.  I think it’s important to get to the source. How was The Lecturer born?  Was there a significant time in your life when you did not feel seen, heard or valued?  Was there a time when you were surrounded by others who were not good at making good choices or adult decisions?  Is there a more productive way you could process or share your thoughts so that you didn’t feel a burning desire to share?  I ask these questions because I see The Lecturer as a coping mechanism.  And the sneaky thing about coping mechanisms is they were once a tool used to save the day.  They’ve served you well at some point but somewhere things changed and the game plan needs to be updated.  There’s no shame in this.  We all have coping mechanisms.  It’s part of being a human.  If we can be kind and give others room to grow we can all become better people.

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