Silence the Greek Chorus: The Importance of Decreasing Anxiety & Increasing Trusted Advisors

{3:00 minutes to read} It’s interesting to me that people, in general, offer up advice — some invited, most not — to their divorcing friends and family. Divorce and dieting seem to be the two areas people feel free to intrude. In contrast, when somebody has a serious health issue, opinions and advice are less forthcoming.

In ancient Greek drama, the chorus provided commentary for the audience about the events of the enacted tragedy. The Greek chorus had a useful purpose. In my work, I often run into modern Greek choruses, but unlike long ago, their contributions to 21st-century divorce are often problematic.

The modern Greek chorus is not on a stage. It is literally everywhere a divorcing person goes, comprised of opinionated friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, hair stylists, and other acquaintances. I have written about this topic previously, but I realized it might be helpful to write about it again after receiving an email from a new client. In her email, she stated, “I’m getting all kinds of advice, bidden and unbidden.”

It is very challenging to deal with the scary, unsettling, and anxiety-provoking aspects of divorce — and unsolicited opinions are not as helpful as the offerer may believe them to be. The refrain of the Greek chorus sometimes weighs heavily on divorcing people on every decision from choosing the venue (e.g., mediation vs. litigation) to the value of their settlement.

Generally, there are two big problems with the advice and opinions my clients have told me about:

  1. The advice is not accurate.
  2. It heightens anxiety and creates a fear of mistakes.

As a result, the divorcee begins questioning him or herself. And in divorce situations, anxiety and fear are truly unhelpful.

On a positive note, the members of the Greek chorus obviously care about you. When confronted with a barrage of opinions, I counsel divorcees to take the advice for how it’s intended: that the person giving it loves, cares, and wants what is best for the recipient. A gentle and kind way to pause a member of your Greek chorus is to say, “I really appreciate your concern, and I’ve got a great team in place to help me with these decisions.”

And it is about teamwork. I advise my clients to select a small group of trusted advisors. Often, clients will pick three: their lawyer, their therapist, and a close friend. In so doing, the Greek chorus can be politely ushered off the stage — but don’t worry. You’ll see them at the cast party on closing night.

Have you received unwanted advice from a friend or family member?

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