Dear Dr. Yael:
I appreciate your honesty in dealing with others, as exemplified in your February 28 column, “The Nose Knows.” It takes strength of character to stand by your beliefs and it is truly amazing that you actually changed this woman’s life.
I know that your advice was sound since, as a seminary mechanechet, I have been involved in situations like the one described. The rabbanim with whom I consulted paskened the same way, namely that I should have a nose job with “the surgery performed by the best surgeon available.”
Being visually oriented, men are often more concerned with looks than women are. Women are sometimes attracted to a man’s other attributes and not as affected by his looks. I have also found that rabbanim are more lenient with women when it comes to decisions regarding plastic surgery – though every case needs to be judged independently.
I admire your honest approach in your work as a therapist and the guidance you accept from da’as Torah.
Thank you for your kind words.
The response to the advice I gave the young woman has been mixed. I understand that elective surgery is controversial and the decision to proceed is not an easy one; however, I have seen very positive results come from this choice.
Dear Dr. Yael:
Regarding “The Nose Knows,” I’ve concluded that even though people say they want help, they may only want someone to talk to; not everyone wants a response to an inquiry, or an idea for how to change things.
Despite being correct in telling this young woman what you felt she needed (a nose job), she seemed to be insulted by the suggestion. So the question begs to be asked: Why do some people seek help in the first place if they are going to become insulted when it is offered? I have learned from experience that it is better to simply remain quiet and only listen when people seek my help. I know that you, as a therapist, cannot do that. But most people go to a non-therapist to vent, not to get solutions to their issues. It is a shame that when one sincerely wishes to help another person, he or she often must avoid telling the truth.
Reading your column, I realized that if you hadn’t had the backing of important rabbanim valued by your client, she would have angrily left your office – and never returned. It was only because you were able to enlist the help of those she respected that you were able to help her.
Should people like me who want to help others stay quiet, or should we explore ways to tactfully help those whom we think we can help?
Your question, though, is not easy to answer.
I do not give unsolicited advice – even as it pertains to my married children and extended family. I am not entirely sure why people become angry when help is offered. It may be that the advice was not asked for, as that they aren’t interested in help.
I have found that it is more effective to help others by listening to their concerns and then engaging them in a manner whereby they can figure out how to solve their own problems. A listening ear is generally more welcoming than advice from someone who acts as if he or she knows it all and appears to have all the answers. Since people usually know what they need to do, it is best to offer them encouragement in their quest to achieve their goals.
In the personal example I cited, the young woman might have known her nose was unattractive, but perhaps she was unaware that it was causing many men to reject her. She probably never thought of plastic surgery as a viable and halachically permissible option. It was an unusual situation, but I knew from experience that rabbanim would likely allow the surgery, as it was possible that without it she would not have found her true zivug. Furthermore, as you noted, I was in a unique position to give her advice – as she actively sought my help.
So in conclusion, let your friends vents without offering unwanted advice. This is the best recipe for success. Hatzlachah!