When To Talk, And When To Listen: Where Do You Draw The Line In Giving Friends Advice?

August 13, 2013  |  

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People say experience is the best teacher,  but when you care about someone, many times you seek to give advice to prevent them from experiencing a bad situation. This is especially true in friendships. You’ve been there and done that and usually want to give your girlfriends advice about what not to do. But where do you draw the line?

A grown woman will do what a grown woman wants to do. With that being said, all opinions you have about your friend’s financial mishaps or bad choice in men should not always be given when, simply put, she didn’t ask you. A good friend should always have her girl’s back, but not to the point where it appears overbearing or condescending. And while the intent may never be to get on a friend’s nerves, it’s surprisingly easy to do.

I recently had an encounter with a friend. I was put in a tough situation. Should I be the listening ear and the shoulder to cry on or should I tell her what I thought she should have done months ago? And I had plenty of advice for her to use in the future to prevent the same thing from happening over and over again. Then I realized as I said earlier, that a grown woman will do what a grown woman wants to do, so I shut up and just listened instead.

After hours of her crying, cursing, and laughing, I asked her “What did you learn from this situation?” She paused and after deep thought, she spewed out her lessons. Basically, the same advice I would have given her. So without forcing my opinions on her, I got my point across. Then she asked me, “What do you think?”

Finally she asked me. And because I hadn’t been judgmental or condescending, she actually listened. I learned a lot about my friend and myself from the situation. The more experience you have at being a friend, the better you should become.

In the past I would have been quick to give advice and much slower to listen, but after realizing that even after advice I usually end up doing what I wanted to do in the beginning, I changed my judgmental ways. It’s easy to say what you would or wouldn’t do when you’re not actually in a situation.

I never want any of my friends to be afraid to talk to me because they don’t feel like being condemned. There is a time and place for everything. And when someone is pouring out his or her heart to you, interjecting to voice an unsolicited position isn’t a good idea.

Now this isn’t to say that you should never offer advice to a friend. What would be the point in the friendship? I am simply saying, being overbearing and flooding your friend with unsolicited advice isn’t the answer; and more importantly, reiterating the exact same thing over and over will only get on her nerves. So if you think she should stop talking to her ex on the phone, after you’ve said it ten times and she continues to do it, STOP telling her. Clearly she isn’t listening. And if you make it difficult for her to talk to you about it, that can interfere with the friendship. Sometimes it’s better to be a listening ear than a talking mouth.

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