It has happened before. Your friend has been complaining about transgressions and hurtful misdeeds by a partner. This time your friend seems exceptionally upset and “really needs your advice now!”
Giving advice is a sensitive matter. It means putting yourself in your friend’s situation without being aware of all the facts and feelings involved.
What do you really know about the circumstances? The probability is that you only hear one side of the story presented through the glasses of the person seeking advice. Most importantly, you don’t know what your friend’s emotional history is or whether it is the reason causing the disruptive relationship.
Giving the wrong advice often backfires. It can cause loss of trust if the advice seeker feels that you’re not on his or her side. Worse, it can end your relationship altogether or bring about more hurt.
In my experience the best course of action is listening to the grievances without putting forth solutions. Being supportive does not mean you have to come up with King Solomon’s wise answer, it means giving your time, expressing genuine interest, standing by emotionally and letting your friend talk.
Most of the time, and this is especially true for women, the advice seeker isn’t looking for answers and solutions but just wants to vent. By sharing the experiences with a trusted friend, the advice seeker is more able to clearly see the available options and can then focus on making decisions. Deep down your friend knows what she or he really wants to do.
Sharing stories help people overcome confusing emotions. This exercise helps people evaluate whether their decisions may be precipitous or irrational. What they need and want is to voice their grievances without being judged. Sometimes people might resent hearing your solution, even if they asked for it.
Suggestions and no-nos:
• As a rule, don’t suggest breaking up, you could end up being the villain if the advice seeker listens to you and then changes his or her mind. You may become “persona non grata” (Latin for an unwelcome person) and end up being pushed out.