“Oh, don’t worry. If I’d wanted sympathy, I wouldn’t have called you.”
My sister called me to express frustration with a friend who had canceled a get-together at the last minute for the second time in a row. We discussed it for a while. She described the situation, and mentioned that she was considering confronting the friend about her behavior. (The situation is apparently exacerbated by the friend’s two beaux, who have taken to haunting her apartment on the slightest pretext while she makes up her mind whether she is interested in either of them.)
I pointed out that the friend in question is clearly still learning certain life skills, and that confronting her will probably accomplish very little. She’d be very apologetic (or possibly defensive) but probably wouldn’t start keeping her commitments or making the boys leave her apartment when my sister arrived for some girl-time.
At around this time, it occurred to me that my analysis, while well-meant, was not actually the proper social protocol, so I apologized for not sounding very sympathetic. My sister’s reply is quoted above. And she’s quite right. If she wanted sympathy, she’s call our other sister.
It’s really quite a relief. I can be sympathetic when necessary, but I’m really much more inclined to contribute slightly cynical analysis. Sometimes it’s a defect, but I’m glad to know that at least some people find it helpful.