Let’s face it; this is a tough cookie to crack. There is no other way to get around the fact that we all grew up in totally different worlds, be it perceptually, socially, mentally, and physically. It won’t matter how high your E.Q. is and how experienced in the ways of the world you may be. Perhaps, the best advice one can give is not advice at all, but patience and presence. Just being there for a friend to lend a caring ear may be enough. But that is not what this article is about. This article is about saving you and your friends from getting hurt by each other’s words, whether meant or not, truth or false, right, wrong, or neither.
These are simply guidelines to remember so that when the situation presents itself, you will be ready, diplomatic, and neutral as can be, to avoid any tension that might occur. If you are a person like me, someone that can be too frank, sarcastic, crass, even apathetic, primarily, due to the lack of focus, this would come in handy-dandy.
5 things to keep in mind while trying to give advice
- Every person holds the wheel. They make their own life choices and will have to live with those choices. Duhh.
- Sometimes the person that needs advice just needs to be indulged. Give them a good listening ear and ask the right questions instead.
- You can never fully know anyone’s situation in its entirety. Therefore, any information you may have to offer has a chance of being totally out of bounds.
- If you are too close to the situation you might not be able to help being biased. Sometimes it is good to just excuse yourself from the situational stand point. Leave the job for someone else.
- Remind yourself you have made many mistakes yourself, stay humble. Note that sometimes your friend is wrong and already knows it, she probably does not need to incessantly hear about her mistake, so just remind her of your many mistakes instead, it will make them feel better, which is what they were after in the first place.
Although, I would rather express my thoughts in its purest, most un-adulterated form, which is of course what would naturally come out of my mouth at that moment, sometimes it is just not what the person in need of advice needs, wants, or even understands. If you want to avoid these uncomfortable moments of judgement, try another strategy.
I guess what I am trying to say is, do not give advice at all, but ask the right questions instead, which is itself, a discipline.
Here are almost 8 pointers on how to help a friend without giving advice
1. Just listen. Maybe all they need is a comforting presence and someone to vent out to.
2. Empathy goes a long way. Ask them how that situation made them feel, and how they are feeling now. Try to put yourself in their shoes and refrain from giving your opinions.
3. Try being tentative. Do not rush into any judgements. Let them explain and talk the situation through. Hold your tongue and persist to be patient.
4. Ask as many questions you can, maybe in the act of answering your questions, they can find their answers.
5. Make them see another point of view. Sometimes your friend or the person in need of advice may be stuck in tunnel vision. Lightly point out a different perspective without taking sides. Try to help them zoom out of the situation.
6. Keep them calm and relaxed. Try giving them a comforting hug, maybe offer a beverage, or something sweet, as to lighten their mood and help them think more clearly. Validate their feelings.
7. Ask them how you could help without crossing any boundaries. Of course decide for yourself where the boundaries are and do not cross them. This is danger zone so be careful what you commit yourself to.
8. Honesty is the best policy. If you really care about your friend or this person in need, then give them honest feedback, while this might go against what the entire article was leading you on to, it comes back full circle. Sometimes it is necessary to get your word out, however hard it is for them to hear. They should know that real friends wouldn’t say things just to hurt them. That it all comes from some place real, true, and out of kindness and love. Just be ready to get any random variety of reactions. Cliché sayings come to mind like, it is what it is, you did what you could, and lastly, that’s what friends are for.
There is really no guarantee that any of this will absolutely work, however, anything to help is the goal. If there is no helping the situation on your end, remember, this is your friend’s problem, not yours. If need be, seek professional help, or simply ask your friend or person in need for some time to reflect, and get back to them later.
There are no real rules on this since we are all way too different to have a real standard on these types of social situations. Ultimately, honesty is the best policy. If you tell the truth they will either appreciate it or hate it, at least you told the truth, which is what a real friend would do in the first place.
If you lose a friend over them finding out the truth then maybe you are not meant to be friends. The world is a big place with many people. Some people are meant to be long time friends, some short-lived, some real, some not. I personally prefer my friends to be honest with me as I am to them and treat each other like the adults we all are, real as real can be.
Keep your true circle small, and don’t have a false circle, you will see a big difference. Maybe, just maybe, you will find yourself giving, or not giving advice, to your real friends, the ones that get you, the ones worth the pain and the joy altogether, true.
In the end, the choice is all yours.