Tempted to Give Advice? Think Again.

1 May

It’s bound to happen. Someone with a marital or relationship problem is going to come to you and ask for advice.

How do you best support that person now that you have been put into this “first responder” role?Your first reaction might be to offer your advice, but according to William Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota, the most effective thing that you can do is pretty darn simple … just listen!

His theory is to teach ‘lay people’, like you and me, how to respond when someone shares his/her relationship story with you.

Dr. Doherty feels that it’s important to listen for the feelings the other person is expressing … not the ugly content. For example, if there is anger, is there hurt or insecurity underneath? Those feelings are at the core of the issue and probably lead to the opportunity for more productive conversations.

And consider these helpful Dos and Don’ts to avoid the temptation of giving advice:

  • Don’t talk about yourself. Rather, offer your experience in a better context. Something like: “Yours is a different situation, but my husband and I realized that …”
  • Don’t take sides. Rather, realize that what you are hearing is only one person’s viewpoint, which may be speaking to your own emotional triggers.
  • Don’t diagnose the problem. Rather, listen and offer a reflection of what you are hearing.
  • Don’t minimize or exaggerate the problem. Rather, ask gentle questions such as “Have you shared these feelings with your spouse?”
  • Don’t offer solutions. Rather, if asked for advice, share it within the context of your personal situation. Perhaps a reply such as: “I’m not a relationship expert, but this approach helped me in the past …”
  • Don’t jump to the conclusions. Rather, support the person to come to his/her own decisions.

I’m thinking that this is a pretty useful  list no matter what type of problem someone is sharing with you.








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