Nourish relationships and self-care

Empathy works. It always does.

Giving advice is not always so helpful

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Image courtesy to the shadowwolf.deviantart.com

You’re sitting down for tea with your friend. She tells you about the latest rupture in her marriage. It sounds shitty. They had a fight, with yelling, disconnection, and thoughts of divorce. Again. She doesn’t know how to support her needs for peace, ease, and harmony in her marriage. It sounds like a recurring problem. Sure, they patch up, reconcile, and have moments of happiness, and still… It never seems to last.

You want her to be happy. Just plain happy. Because you care for her.

You know that if he would be more satisfied with the little things in life, and less striving for promotion, he would be more relaxed and available for the love and intimacy she longs for.

You tell her to tell him that.

It doesn’t land well. She starts to be defensive and explains why it wouldn’t work.

You’re confused. You really just want to help, and your friend refuses your advice. Now what?

Start empathizing first. Guess her feelings, needs, and the implicit request she’s making by telling about her troubles. Maybe she just wants to be heard? If that’s what she wants, how can you let her know you’re listening and understand her stress and pain?

Ask. “Hey, I hear about your troubles. It sounds really important. I want to make sure that I get you. Shall I tell you what I heard you say?” Super simple, and often forgotten in our eagerness to respond, fix, reassure. You’ll be surprised how relieved your friend feels, when she hears that you get her.

If she wants more support, ask first what she thinks could help her marriage. After all, she has unique inside information about the pitfalls and highlights of her marriage, what works and what doesn’t. Inviting her own solutions, affirms empowerment, inner wisdom, and creativity. It taps into the wholesome part of herself.

If you still think your advice is invaluable you ask if she wants to hear your two cents. Asking permission before offering advice supports autonomy and choice. If your friend says ‘no’, too bad. You want to support her, and apparently your advice strategy doesn’t work for her. Her ‘no’ does offer an opportunity to ask her what would work better. If she says ‘yes’ you share your advice, and ask for a reflection to make sure you expressed yourself clearly. Then you ask “How does that land for you?” to support inclusion and connection.

I like it. It is spacious, and fosters connection, autonomy and collaboration.

Try it out yourself the next time you talk to your friend.

Thanks, Miller and Rollnick, for your suggestion to use an elicit-provide-elicit process to nurture connection while giving advice.

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You want help to learn how to best support your loved ones? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping professionals schedule time for relationships and self-care. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

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