Counseling/friend

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QUESTION: I need some advice, a friend of mine is dating a real jerk - I just met him for the first time a few days ago, and she is asking me what I think of him, what do I say????????????

ANSWER: Hi, Street:  This is one of those questions like "does this dress make me look fat."  In terms of actually answering the question, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.  Nothing tests the mettle of friendship like honesty.  I'll venture some suggestions (meaning, fools rush in where angels fear to tread) but I can't guarantee that anything I suggest - or anyone else - will end up preserving the friendship.  It's probably a 50/50 chance.  But, you already know that having asked the question.  I suppose there are 2 possible reasons why she asked for your opinion:  1) she's looking for confirmation or 2) she's not sure about this herself and truly respects your opinion as a friend.  I think you would be best to clarify where she's coming from by asking whether she really wants your opinion no matter what that opinion might be.  I would let her know how much you value the friendship and that you would prefer to keep your opinions to yourself if it might mean that she would be offended (in reality, this clues her in to your opinion without you having to actually give it).  If she tells you that she wants to hear what you have to say, I would be honest and as objective as possible.  I certainly wouldn't use terms like "jerk" (I'm sure just from the little that you've said here that you already are much too sensitive and reasonable to do that).  I would stick to what you're seeing that gives you concerns for her happiness with this this guy - stay descriptive. Be specific without being cruel and reinforce that no matter what decision she makes, you will support her and remain as her friend.  I hope this makes some sense and is helpful.  If you have a chance and inclination, let me know how things go.  Best of luck. Joel

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Just wanted to let you know this is what I'm going to send her:

Margaret,

Since I have only met him one time - for a few hours - in a party setting, I may not have gotten a good feel.  I did notice he seems to really like you, which is great.  He seems very intelligent and from what you have told me in the past, he treats you well - and if that is the case, and you are happy, then I am happy.  I am glad you are taking things slow.  In matters of the heart, one can never be too cautious!

With that said, and because I consider us good friends, the rest of my response will be in keeping with that.  

I want you to know that whatever happens between you and Gerald - regardless of my opinion, if you two remain a couple, he will be welcome in our home.  To that end, I am of the opinion that he is not the person for you.  When you and I were talking the other night, you mentioned certain tendencies he has that you are not comfortable with - some of those tendencies seem similar to those you experienced with Rand.  I would hate to see you compromise yourself and your values and end up back in a situation you by no means deserve.  Gerald seems to want to fit in, however, with what I know of you and my first impressions of him - I think you would be happier with someone who better matches your temperament.

I hope you know I say this out of love and care for you and I only want the best for you and your family always so I hope you do not take offense - again, I only met him one time in a party setting, where first impressions can sometimes be wrong.  

Have you spoken to the boys about Gerald?  If so, what was their opinion?

I am always available for you - to meet you for a drink, coffee, or whatever, or to talk on the phone,  or of course on Facebook.

Your friend
Lisa

Answer
Lisa:  I like the letter very much; it confirms that you value her friendship, it raises her own doubts about him and reinforces that by reminding her of a bit of personal history.  If you haven't sent the letter, the only minor change I would make is to actually invite her for that "drink, coffee, etc.)rather than leaving it open.  But, as I said, that's minor and only a small tweak.  Let me know how it goes.  Joel

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Joel Simon

Expertise

General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.

Experience

Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website: www.0to10.net

Organizations
A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Publications
Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at www.0to10.net

Education/Credentials
Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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