When friends come to you to discuss a problem, you may feel the need to fix the problem by offering advice. However, this isn’t always the best approach. For one thing, you may base your advice on knowing only your friend's side of the story. As a result, your advice could lead to more problems. If you think about the best ways to show love and friendship, it’s better to be a good listener and express empathy than offer advice.
Why Our Instincts Tell Us to Offer Advice
No one likes to see people they love suffering or experiencing pain. That’s one of the main reasons people tend to dole out advice when they learn about a problem that’s bothering their friend. Truly, this inclination to suggest solutions comes from good intentions. However, only those experiencing the difficulty know the way to resolve it. They can work with a therapist or online psychic to find a path forward. As a friend, you have a different role to play.
How to Support Friends in the Midst of a Struggle Through Listening
If a friend comes to you with a crisis, the first thing you do is close your mouth and actively listen. To listen actively means you ask clarifying statements to ensure you understand, and you may even repeat back something your friend said to make sure you heard it correctly. Not only does this provide you with deeper knowledge about your friend’s challenge, but it shows your friend that you care enough to be engaged in the conversation.
How to Use Empathy
Scholar and author Brené Brown has studied shame, the need for belonging, and empathy. According to her research-based approach to developing stronger relationships, you need to give your friend empathy rather than advice. To be empathetic, you avoid pointing out that things could be worse or that your friend made a mistake. Instead, you hold your friend’s hand and acknowledge his or her pain. You can draw from your own hurtful experiences and talk about how much pain you experienced. In the sharing of pain, you create a safe space where your friend can explore his or her emotions and possibly move closer to a solution.
When to Ask How You Can Help
The opposite of offering advice is asking your friends how you can help. Maybe you have a friend who’s going through a tough time with her teenage children. Taking her out for lunch or coffee not only provides her a physical break from her home life, but it also gives her more space to talk about the challenges she’s facing. If your friends asks for help connecting with someone who can give sound advice, offer the name of a professional counselor, live psychic, or other trusted advisor.
By listening, being empathetic, and asking how you can help, you show your friend love and acceptance, both of which are necessary to cultivating a vibrant friendship.