A Crucial Question You Should Be Asking Your Friend Before Giving Advice
Have you ever reached out to someone to vent and left the conversation more pissed?
Have you ever wanted someone to be empathetic and just listen without always having something to say?
Have you ever talked to someone in general conversation who turned out to be insensitive to your situation?
At some point or another, we all have.
I’ve been the friend to be called on when hard times hit. I like to remove myself from my friendships and give third-party advice.
What’s third-party advice? It’s advice that you’d give to an absolute stranger. Someone you don’t know or have any connection to. If a complete stranger told you their situation, you’d shared your thoughts without anything to gain or lose. This is often the advice that is needed; logical non-biased advice.
I aim to remove emotion, if possible, to genuinely help my family and friends. If they are emotional and I get emotionally biased, I am no help.
I’ve learned a few hard lessons about calling the wrong people or not setting boundaries with people who call me to vent. It sucked because all they would talk about is their issues or what they have going on as opposed to the key point at hand. Some would even highlight my struggles while telling me about theirs.
When I used to call the wrong people, I felt terrible. I used to hang up the phone thinking “Why did I call them in the first place?”. *sigh* Over time, I’ve realized that the reason why I would call these people is that I was stuck on titles. He/She is “this” to me so they’ll get it or they’re supposed to be there for me because they’re family or my close friends. I placed too high of an expectation on these people and didn’t take into account that they may have a lot going on themselves.
For a while, I had to check myself and determine who was worth calling. I didn’t realize how many people were so hard to talk to. I carried hurt for so long, never telling them how I felt as if they weren’t there for me the way I needed them to be. Since then, I’ve realized how entitled I was and how it was not their responsibility to guess what or who I needed them to be, especially if I’ve never voiced it.
It’s kind of like how women do men. We get mad and assume men should know why we’re mad. When men don’t get it, we get even madder. It’s manipulative and just poor communication.
Anyway, from these experiences, I learned two things about myself which helped me decide to treat people in a way that will grow our relationship and build trust instead of being a fixer, giving tough love at the wrong time, and not listening:
ONE - In the past, I never checked to see what weight they were carrying before I spilled my bullshit onto them. Not once.
Tip: Ask someone how they are doing before you release your circumstances on them? Your strong friends hold heavyweights too. Not only is it courteous, but it will also help you help one another over time.
TWO - I developed an expectation they knew nothing about then would get angry that they didn’t react/respond the way I thought they should have.
Tip: Do not build an expectation without communicating with the other party. It’s immature to get mad at a person who has no idea why you’re mad. You will be disappointed time and time again.
With that said, I’ve started to practice asking the most crucial thing when someone calls me to vent or to receive advice:
What kind of friend do you need today?
A conversation can go one of two ways, great or horrible. Sometimes we can’t help an outcome, but we can try. And, trying goes a long way.
When you’re emotional (sad, disappointed, hurt, embarrassed, etc.), you know what type of love you need. You usually call the person who you want to hear and see you. Or, you call the person who you know will not sugar coat and may even hurt your feelings. But, sometimes we get it wrong. We call the wrong person. We want the person who gives tough love to be understanding for once. We call the person who will agree with us when we’re wrong. On the other hand, we’re the one listening to respond; being insensitive to certain situations.
If you’re the person who is giving the advice, please take time to ask this question. It will improve the conversation and build a stronger friendship. Trust me it helps.
Sometimes we need tough love. We need someone to tell us that we’re wrong and need to adjust the way we see things, speak about things or to people, or treat others overall.
Other times, we need an empathetic ear. Someone to listen and at the appropriate time, tell us how we can move forward if that is what is asked of them.
What kind of friend do you need today?
Why is this one question so important?
Because we’ve been on both ends of this situation whether we know it or not. If we’ve called a friend or family member crying our eyes out, pouring out how we’re hurt and name the events as they’ve happened, and this person responds with how we knew better or as if we deserved what happened (things that we may also know to be true), it makes us feel worse.
I am not saying sugar coat a thing for other people. I am saying there is a time and a place to give tough love. It isn’t necessary all the time.
Wait until the person is stronger to hear your tough love. Wait for a better time so you can be heard and seen when giving advice and the relationship doesn’t suffer.
Sometimes I am strong enough to get hit with truth jabs. I’ll respond to say “go ahead and say what you have to say”. I can take it. I suck it up. Agree and move on.
Other times, I need an empathetic ear. I need someone to just be there. Not fix or advise. Just listen. This makes a difference and builds trust in relationships.
If we don’t stop to think about how we respond to our loved one's situation, trust breaks in those small moments. In a matter of 15-20 mins, we may not ever call back for a thing when we’re in need because one conversation made us feel worse.
You don’t have to babysit grown folks. You don’t have to hold their hand. Just be the friend they need when they call you. Encourage open, non-judgmental dialogue. Let’s be a little more gentle with one another. Let’s avoid suffering in silence.
What kind of friend do you need today? Try this when someone calls you to vent or get advice. Check their emotional capacity before you respond. Be more empathetic.
Let me know if this article resonated with you and why in the comments below.