Have you ever gone to a friend to talk because you were upset, and instead of actively listening, she starts offering unsolicited advice about what you should do? Does that interaction make you feel supported and heard, or are you left feeling robbed of the space to problem solve that you were actually seeking?
Are you guilty of giving unasked-for advice or criticism?
When someone comes to you in pain, if you immediately start offering solutions rather than listening and holding space as a caring witness, you are doing your pal a disservice. We reactively give advice because it makes US feel better. Your friend’s distress causes you discomfort, so you want to help or fix it. And although doing that may lessen your discomfort, it really does not help your friend.
So much of the time, our friends and loved ones would actually just like us to hold space for them to figure it out on their own. Empathically listening will accomplish your desire to ease your pal’s suffering much more effectively than trying to make her decisions for her.
When I first started dating my husband, Victor, he was a fixer. His assumption that I needed him to figure out my problem actually offended my sense of independence. Like, seriously, dude, I have been on my own and had two successful careers and an entire life before I even met you, my ego would scream! Fifteen years and many conversations later, we have an understanding of how to truly support each other around problem solving.
Simply asking the question, “How can I best support you right now?” takes all of the guessing out of the equation, saving time and frustration.
When I want to brainstorm a problem he knows, I am seeking his opinion. When I am simply in pain and have not asked for his advice, he knows I want him to witness and care about my pain and soothe me in some way. The trick is becoming mindful enough to stop and ask the question.
According to my pal and mentor, Russell Freidman from the Grief Recovery Institute, giving unasked-for advice or criticism robs the other person of their dignity.
And since I know you don’t want to be a dignity robber, I have a challenge for you. This week, every time you start to dole out unsolicited advice, catch yourself, and stop. And then simply ask the magic question and see what shifts.
Know that bringing awareness to habitual limiting behavior is the first step to transforming it.
Your relationships are worth the time and effort!
I hope you have an amazing week and, as always, take care of you.
Love Love Love,