Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The trap of advice-giving

Ever notice how much easier it is to give advice to a friend than to examine your own life and see what needs changing or tending?

Your friend or loved one discusses a problem she's having at work or in one of her relationships. What do you do? Do you just listen, give her a hug and assure her of your care and support? Or do you play armchair psychologist and come up with reasons for the problem and ways she could resolve it? I know, it's so tempting to do the latter, isn't it? You want to help, after all.

Think about it, though. When you pour out your hurt to someone, what do you most need? That's right. You need someone to listen. You want a friend to just validate you for feeling the way you do about the situation. If you want and need advice, you'll most likely ask for it. Or you may seek out a coach or a counselor, if that's what you need.

Listening is gift enough
To listen to someone is a true gift. It's enough. You don't have to have the answers to the life problems of others. By listening to them, you affirm their personhood. And often you give them the strength and courage to keep going and to dig down inside for their own answers.

I've heard it said that when we're busy giving advice to others, we're ignoring our own issues and "stuff." That's so true, isn't it? A wise psychotherapist I know says that it's arrogant to think we can fix someone else—she says we each have plenty to do just trying to navigate our own lives on this planet. Yup! I'm taking that to heart these days. Even as a life coach, I was taught to see and have always seen my role not as advice-dispensing but as helping clients access their own wisdom—helping them live their way into their own answers to life questions.

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