11 Reasons We Don't Talk to Friends, Authority Figures, or Professionals About Our Problems
It seems easy, right? If you have a problem or a heartache, you go to those who are supposed to help you. Friends. Authority figures in your family or church. Or, when all else fails, you talk to a professional.
If only it were that simple and ideal.
Here's a list of just 11 of the many reasons we sometimes don't talk to friends, authority figures, or professionals about our problems and our pain. Think of something in your own life, a persistent heartache, a dream you've kept quiet so long that it hurts, or a past regret that you haven't shared. See how many of these reasons resonate.
Reasons that originate in ourselves:
Shame: We’re embarrassed or ashamed. We know we’ve screwed up, or are experiencing great weakness, and we want to avoid feeling worse by exposing ourselves. Some of us beat ourselves up far more than anyone else can. Sometimes sharing just feels like a pile-on.
Loss of Credibility: We can fear losing standing, respect, trust or authority. This is especially true for leaders or those in positions of trust and responsibility where reputation is vital. For leaders, being vulnerable and seeking help can be particularly difficult.
Loss of Love: We fear losing the love, trust, respect, or relationship of those we love. Or the reverse, we fear gaining (wrong or harsh) judgment, disapproval, punishment, or rejection. We also can fear being a disappointment to someone we love or respect.
Inability: We lack the self-awareness or communication skills to express the heart of the matter. In the absence of internal clarity the risk of others “filling in the blanks” in a wrong way and judging us on their perception is increased. It feels unwise.
Fear of never gaining credibility: We want to be seen in our strengths and value and don’t believe we can be seen as both strong and weak. This is especially difficult for those who have yet to feel understood in their best parts. Who wants to be seen only as weak? Better to be seen as “nothing special” than as only weak.
We’re not ready: We know we’re wrong, but we’re not ready to hear, “You have to change.” We know it’s true, but we’re not ready to change and we don’t yet know why. Telling someone of our struggle produces the demand and accountability for something we don’t know how to do. We’ve already told ourselves to change. Saying it isn’t good enough and we don’t expect anyone we tell to have the way out.
Reasons that originate in others:
Trustworthiness: Our fears of loss, judgment, and rejection noted above can be justified. Some people simply aren’t (or don’t feel) trustworthy or safe to be vulnerable with. Or perhaps they don’t feel warm enough, empathetic enough or otherwise approachable.
Unavailability: If, in the moment you most need help and support, all you have in your life are those who aren’t trustworthy and safe then your only option is professional help, which isn’t always available (or available to you for whatever reason).
Different beliefs: Whether or not you can trust others, you may have significant or relevant differences in beliefs or in paradigms for problem-solving that could make dialogue about your pain or problems unhelpful, counterproductive, or even destructive. In these cases, the first dialogue necessary is about the difference of beliefs.
Competency: Let’s face it. Not everyone is competent or equipped to deal with certain struggles in a helpful way, including friends, authorities, or professionals. When competency is lacking it opens us up to all kinds of potential problems, especially if the person we’re seeking help from is in some sort of position of authority with power to cause us grief.
Lack of Clarity: Sadly, some people in our lives probably ARE able to help, but they haven’t yet done the work themselves that allows them to communicate that.
Every reason on this list is also a reason that learning to counsel and coach yourself effectively can make all the difference. If nothing else, it can help you to a place where you can talk to someone else.