a little advice for giving advice

I find writing to be my form of venting–I’ve just learned over time that it’s better for me than confining in one of my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I still text or call them when writing isn’t an option and it’s always nice to know I have that social support, but sometimes I don’t need the advice. There are times I just want to respond back, “you know what, I really don’t want or need to hear anything you have to say right now, I just want you to listen!” Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve taught myself not to hold in my emotions anymore, it does more damage than good, so I vent–to let it out. I like to hear myself and what I’m actually thinking; it gives me time to get myself together, organize my thoughts and figure out my feelings. I have also recently realized how much I dislike when they compare situations and put their emotions and reactions into the situation creating something bigger than what it is.

Aside from that small rant I just had, I want to give tips to become a better support system for the people in your life–

First and foremost you have to learn who your friend is (or whoever comes to you for support). For example, are they more direct and ask for advice, or more indirect and give hints? Do they usually just like to vent and want emotional support, or are they usually coming to you for tangible support? (meaning they want something). Once you figure this out, you’ll have a better chance at providing appropriate and effective help.

Secondly, you have to know how to match the support with their problem. You may have to begin with asking questions instead of telling them what they need to do, because how many of you actually listen to your own advice? (don’t worry, I’ll wait)…therefore, moving on! Asking questions is the best way to figure out what it is your friend needs or wants. Here’s a little script as an example:

Friend: Do you have a minute to talk?
You: Yeah, sure, what’s up?
Friend: I’m just a little stressed out between school, work and my social life. On top of it my boyfriend/girlfriend and I are arguing more.
You: I’m sorry to hear that. What’s stressing you out?
Friend: Just trying to balance it all without feeling overwhelmed.
You: It can be tough, but I’m sure it will get easier once you figure it out. Anything I can help with? Why are you and your boyfriend arguing more?

I’ll stop there because I’m sure you get the idea. The friend comes to you wanting to talk about their stress and relationship, but isn’t necessarily asking for advice. I tried to make it seem like they are just wanting to vent, but hinting at maybe wanting advice on what to do. As a friend, it’s best to give a little emotional support (“I’m sorry to hear that”) and ask questions on what’s going on. I even added in the question of “is there anything I can help with?” it’s a start to figure out what they are coming to you for.

Thirdly, when giving advice, try to be unbiased. Don’t compare situations, but instead give a time where you may have been in their shoes and just state what you did. For instance, “I remember when I lost my job, it was really tough, but I applied to new jobs at least once a day and also asked some of my friends if they had any ideas.” Don’t tell them what they need to do, leave the door open for conversation and help them bounce ideas around. (You can do this in a way that also lets them know you are there if they do need anything).
This is a perfect tip when it comes to relationships as well. Personally I like to call my guy friends because females are THE WORST! Some of us have a hard time learning to forgive and let go so we tend to bring that mess into our friends lives; I’m sure it’s unintentionally, but I can’t stand it. This tip comes from my counseling and psychology classes I’ve taken…first thing you learn is to not give advice anyway. I always try to leave the door open. I don’t like to tell people what to do. I like to ask questions, give scenarios and let them figure it out on their own because if they take my advice and it backfires, I don’t want anyone mad at me; not everyone’s situation is the same therefore different solutions work for different people.

1. Learn the person.
2. Ask questions and figure out the support you need to give. (when the support matches the problem, it’s most appreciated and effective)
3. Don’t compare situations, be unbiased and don’t tell them what they need to do, but help them figure out what they should do.

Hope this helps your friendships 🙂

-A. J


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