Advice: To Give or Not to Give?
To give or not to give? This is a question that everyone has ask themselves when faced with a friend dealing with a quandary. On one hand, you could listen and say nothing. On another hand, you could tell the friend what they want or need to hear, regardless of your own true opinion. Lastly, on the foot that might kick you on your own rear end a few moments later, you could give your honest opinion.
Choose wrong, dabbling in someone else’s destiny and happiness, and you could lose a friend and find yourself feeling responsible for whatever becomes of your friend’s life. And we’re not even talking about monumental topics, like which of these two guys should I marry. Friendship-ending advice can be about something as simple as hair.
For example, a friend asked me a few years ago whether she should straighten her curly hair. At first, I bragged upon the beauty of her curly hair – yada, yada, yada. As the conversation continued, it became apparent that she wanted my confirmation on her decision to straighten her hair verses my honest opinion. So I conceded and recommended a beautician that another friend often used for the same service. The outcome was disastrous. The beautician burned her hair, which a large portion of ultimately fell out. Somehow her decision to straighten her hair not only become my problem, but my fault.
So think carefully about giving, and, if you do give, think very carefully about what you’re giving. Here are some tips:
1. Ask yourself if the friend is actually asking for your input or just your ear. A lot of friends just want someone to listen to them, not some magical answer only you have locked in your brain. After your friend shares his/her problem, ask yourself if they specifically asked you point blank for your opinion. If not, sit and actively listen. Help your friend build the conversation and offer your own experiences, but don’t offer your two cents on your friend’s problem until your specifically asked for it.
2. If it becomes clear your friend isn’t seeking an opinion from you but rather an affirmation on the decision they’ve already made themselves, then you can combat the question with questions. Instead of affirming what you don’t think is a wise decision, you can ask relevant questions to help them think about all sides of the situation and hopefully come to a more informed decision on their own. For example, if your friend is dead set on straightening her hair, then ask what the pros and cons, risks, and expense are; expertise of the potential beautician; how the process works; if anyone else the friend knows has ever had it done and by whom; etc..
3. Should your friend truly want your advice and ask for it, then make sure that your friend truly wants to hear what you have to say. You might say that you care about them and want to help them, but that they might not like what you have to say on the subject. You might also want to confirm that your advisory position will not affect the friendship should they choose to ignore or take your advice.