educated by tv: “That Sucks.” (Lesson from Parks & Rec)

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TV Episode: Parks and Recreation S6E11: “Farmer’s Market
GIFs from, knope.gifglobe.com

Once my brother booked a flight across the country to visit a friend. Later, he found out that his friend “suddenly” had to leave town the same week my brother was visiting… but the plane tickets were paid for.

As my brother shared this to my family, I immediately went into solution mode.

Bro, you got two choices: pay the cancellation fee, OR go anyways and enjoy the vacation without your friend. 

My brother hated my response… you’re not helping. please stop talking.

I was confused. Why??? I’m just trying to help.

I didn’t realize that I was being a terrible little brother. I was minimizing my brother’s dilemma. Not only that, I was making it so that his frustrations weren’t worth it. I was saying move on... in the most pompous, arrogant way.

My brother is a grown man in his late 20s, and I was just a college kid. Of course he knew all the solutions I was spitting out. He’s not dumb. In fact, he’s travelled 10x more than me. However, he was lamenting a bad situation that he had just encountered.

My best answer as a little brother and best friend should have been: “Bro, that really sucks.”

(in the end, my brother’s friend was actually there during his visit, so things worked out)

We can see this in Parks and Recreation too. In S6E12, Ann & Chris are having a baby, and Ann is going through all the pregnancy yucky-yucks.

As Ann complains about the difficulties of pregnancy, Chris shoves flaxseed milk, advice from RadDadsSolutions.net, breast pumps, and other things in her face, and says “Everything is amazing. Today is perfect, and I love you.”

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Chris responds to everything Ann is complaining about by providing his own solutions to them. Worse, he says that everything is amazing and today is perfect – totally disregarding her feelings. He makes it about him, not her.

Thankfully, Ron, Tom & Donna come in for the rescue:

Ron Swanson: You’ve fallen into a classic trap, Christopher: trying to fix a woman’s problems instead of just listening to what they are!
Tom Haverford: Hey man, if Ann needs Tylenol, she can get it herself. What she needs from you is to just look her in the eyes, nod your head, and say those two magic words.
Donna Meagle: That sucks.
Chris Traeger: That sucks?
Tom Haverford: I’ve spent my entire life reading instructional books about relationships in order to trick women into liking me. When Ann tells you what’s bothering her, don’t try to fix it. Just say, “Damn, that sucks.”

Long story short, they’re right. Ann loves that Chris always wants to help, but that’s not what she needed in this situation.

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So next time someone close to you approaches you and shares about a tough situation, what’s your response? You may want to help fix everything for him or her, but maybe they just want you to listen and say to simple words: “that sucks”.

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