Psychological Self-Help

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them what college to go to, what courses to take, what
notebook paper to buy, etc. 
Discounting and premature reassurance --a co-
worker tells you that her husband didn't come home last
night and you comment, "Oh, everybody has little spats,
don't worry about it. He'll be home tonight." This is a
little like saying, "Don't talk to me about it any more." 
Psychoanalysis --a male friend describes his fear of
getting married and you explain to him that he was too
emotionally involved with his mother and that he is
scared that a wife would dominate and smother him like
his mother did. This may be true, but let him self-
explore and discover it on his own. 
Questions --a friend hints at some problem in his/her
marriage and you start the inquisition, "Do you two
talk?" "Do you go out?" "How is sex?" Questions control
and guide the conversation (that's bad); let the talker
tell his/her story in his/her own way. (On the other
hand, questions that seek to clarify what the talker has
just described are not controlling and encourage the
talker to talk more.) 
Telling your own story --your friend's problem reminds
you of a similar experience which you share (that's not
so bad, unless you forget to return to your friend's
Most of us are guilty of some of these unempathic
responses. A few poor responses occasionally are no problem,
but many of us are instant reassurers and constant
questioners. Many others of us divert attention away from any
serious problem as soon as we detect it (that's fine for us to do
with strangers, but it is terrible thing to do to a friend). Others
of us seem to see every earthly problem to be a challenge to
our intellect; thus, we dispose of our friends' problems in 5
minutes or, at least, during the coffee break. If the talker has a
significant problem, it may take two or three hours--or much
more--to help him/her. 
Level 2.0: Correct understanding of some of the other
person's feelings and circumstances, but other
significant factors are misunderstood or overlooked.
Examples: at this level, the listener doesn't entirely
understand the talker's feelings. This may discourage the
speaker from expressing more feelings unless the listener
clearly indicates an interest in clarifying exactly what the talker
is experiencing. Suppose a colleague tells you how mad he is at
the boss and you respond, "You feel like going in and telling her
off" but he responds, "Oh, no, I'm mad but not stupid!" You
failed to understand that the talker was also feeling helpless
and afraid to disclose his true feelings to the boss. If you had
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