A Widening Golf

5 Feb

Letterbalm Yelling GolferDear LetterBalm: My friend and I have been golfing buddies for years. I’ve noticed in the past six months that he’s gotten physically angry when he misses shots or plays badly. He throws clubs, yells at our long-time caddy – once, he nearly hauled off and hit me. We usually have a couple drinks afterward, but now he drinks more, mouths off at the waiter and generally is a mean SOB. I’ve asked him what’s wrong several times, but he gets defensive and won’t talk. He and I don’t hang out otherwise, so I don’t know what’s going on with him at home or on the job. What can I do? It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to get together at all.

–In the Rough in Florida

Clearly your buddy is teed off about something – or a combination of somethings. It could be reversals at home or at work, finances, family problems, illness, any number of factors. Do you have friends in common? Can you approach someone who knows both of you? Ms. L.B. thinks this would serve two purposes: discretion and common concern. Perhaps someone else has noticed his change in behavior and can privately give you more information to suggest a plan of action, one that emphasizes your worry about him and your wish to help or simply to listen. Note: Whatever he tells you, keep it private unless it’s illegal activity or he gives you permission to talk. Here’s what you might say after the next round of golf – while he’s still on his first drink:  

Jeff, I want to say this to you, and I ask you to listen. Something is clearly bothering you, and I’m sorry you won’t talk to me about it. You might think I’m just a guy who you play golf with, but we’ve hung out all these years, and, frankly, I’m very worried about you. I consider you my friend. I want to help. I’ll listen, and I’ll keep confidential whatever you say. Try me.

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