This is why people love advice columns: Experts speak


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 28 Jul 2020

PETALING JAYA: In dealing with life’s problems, many of us are inclined to learn from others and use a similar approach to resolve our issues.

This, according to psychologists, is one reason for the appeal of long-running advice columns such as Sunday Star’s Dear Thelma.

"When people read these columns, they can relate to the issues and reflect on things that happen in their own lives, ” said Prof Dr Rahmatullah Khan Abdul Wahab Khan.

The Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris psychology lecturer said those seeking advice in the columns were usually afraid of confiding in others.

"They fear they will be judged for washing their dirty linen in public. With these advice columns, they feel comfortable because they can remain anonymous and use a pseudonym.

"They do not want to expose their problems to people they know but they want to seek solutions.”READ ALSO > Dear Thelma, three decades of advice and still going strong

Psychology lecturer at Taylor’s University, Pang Chia Yee, who has been reading Dear Thelma since her primary school days, said advice columns help people realise that they are not alone in the problems they face.

“They may also like the fact that Thelma can be nice but also very honest. I guess readers find comfort in her advice column, ” she said.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to life’s problems, which may be more complicated than what it appears to be, she added.

Pang said based on her experience, her patients only want quick solutions, but fail to understand that the problem-solving process involves uncovering self-awareness and understanding that they need to make their own decisions.

“The most effective way for people to deal with their problems is to have friends and family whom they can turn to without fear of being judged, ” she said.

An avid reader of Dear Thelma since secondary school, S. Pravin said Thelma can sometimes be harsh in delivering hard truths, but it was also part of the reason why he enjoyed reading the advice column.

“Thelma doesn't mollycoddle or allow self-pity.

“It's not always things that someone would want to hear but it's advice that someone should be hearing.

“I usually like Thelma's advice because she is very practical and goes straight to the point instead of beating around the bush, ” he said.

The 24-year-old law graduate said that although he can relate to some of the problems involving parents back when he was in high school, he feels that the love life problems in Dear Thelma can get intense.

“I just didn't think that there could be people having such problems, but this is life, we never know what's behind closed doors, ” he said.

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