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True or False: Things Would be Fine if You’d Listen!

Your loved one is completely destroying his life. It’s clear to you what he should do to improve his situation. If he would only take your advice!

But, as you’ve probably discovered, things just aren’t that simple.

It’s All About Give and Take

Giving and receiving advice is more complicated than we often think it is. Is the other person ready to hear it? Did they ask for your advice? Have you thoroughly thought about what you will say – and its implications?

While your motives may be pure (and you truly want to help), your methods may be flawed. The next time you feel the urge to shower him with wise counsel, take a minute to consider the following:

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  • You might not know the whole story.
    It’s hard to give sound advice if you only have partial bits of information. Even when you think you understand a situation, you’re likely only seeing one side of the story. Be sure you have a full view of the circumstances before jumping in with advice.
  • He’s the one who has to live with the consequences.
    Yes, his decisions affect you. But, ultimately, it’s his life and he’s the one that must make the decisions and deal with the results.
  • You might be biased.
    You have to carefully examine your motives before giving advice. If you are too wrapped up on the situation, you may be too close to it to offer fair advice. Your own agenda can skew your counsel, so you may need to remove yourself from the role of adviser in these situations – no matter how “wrong” it feels to do so.
  • He may not want advice.
    Has someone ever asked for your advice, then reacted with anger, shock, disbelief, rebellion or stubbornness after you gave it? Or maybe they reacted this way after you gave unsolicited advice? People generally don’t like being told what to do. Everyone values their own freedom and everyone wants to feel competent to make their own choices. Often, you’re better off supporting your loved ones in other ways instead of offering advice (even if they do ask for it).

Advice Alternatives

At times, alternative methods of support are more helpful than any counsel you can offer. Instead of chiming in with instruction, try out the following and see if the outcome improves:

  • Listen and Empathize Have you ever needed to talk, complain or vent about something…and all the listener wanted to do was fix the problem for you? Many times, the best way you can help is to provide a shoulder and empathy. In fact, that’s often what people need the most.
  • Offer Perspective In the midst of a struggle, you can easily get tunnel vision or fail to see long-term consequences. Try suggesting another way to look at the situation. You can ask how he thinks he will feel about the issue or a decision a year from now. Maybe just remind him of the true size of the issue or evaluating whether its importance has been inflated. Just be careful not to minimize his feelings and concerns in doing so.
  • Provide Assistance Pose the question, “How can I help?” Rather than providing ideas about what he should do, you can give practical support. For example, you can help him with a job application, babysit his children or even volunteer to fix his leaky toilet. Of course, you have to remember to set healthy boundaries with him. Be prepared to say no if his request would mean entangling you in the problem in an unhealthy way or if it would somehow help him continue to abuse drugs.

Every situation is unique and requires careful navigation. And some instances may require more than you can give, especially when it comes to overcoming an addiction. If the circumstances are severe, encourage him to seek professional treatment and offer to support him in his sobriety.
Additional Reading:   I Love You to Death: When Parents Become Enablers

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