As human beings we need to support each other and be there for each other.
Despite our differences in what makes us upset or what we truly want, we need each other to get through any setbacks or current struggles.
We’re not meant to struggle on our own.
We have the power to make things worse for our friend, like upsetting them more and affecting their emotional health, or take a load off their shoulders and be by their side in whatever path they take.
The last thing we want is to make things worse because of misguided advice!
We don’t want to say the wrong thing, get over involved, or assume our friend has the same needs and feelings we do to then realize they got the results they didn’t want (but we would’ve wanted if we were in their shoes).
The worst adivce we ever got was to get divorced just before our 2nd anniversary in 2006, as we mention in the About page (Why We Started Love Savvy Club, towards the bottom of the page).
Now I know when it comes to our friends’ troubles, we know them best, we’ve had our similar experiences, and have binged on our fair share of self-help books and youtube personal development, that we feel confident to give some ideas.
As an outsider we see things clearly. We see the whole thing.
Our mind is brilliant and we’ve been gifted with enough wisdom to bestow unto our friends.
We have the best intentions to help a friend with relationship problems, but here’s a secret.
We’re aren’t qualified to give advice. We’re qualified to be a friend.
Not even some professionals are qualified to give the advice they do, because it’s based on opinion.
Personal experience is valid, I’m not saying that it isn’t. But generlaizing is risky. I cringe when I hear speakers, even the ones I respect, stray away into an exciting tangent that’s filled with misguided information.
You can be that awesome friend that knows what to do and say. You’re friend will thank you for it!
Help a friend with relationship problems, and be exceptional at it, like this:
1. Stay away from giving advice
Two things happen when we give our brilliant advice.
One, we make the implication that we problem-solve much better than our friend.
“Poor thing, can’t figure this out. They need some of my wisdom. How lucky they are to have me!”
Our friend isn’t our child to help. They are just as wise. Even more so, we are not an expert in their personal life, because in order to give them the advice that will actually hlep them we must be an expert with their feelings. And we aren’t. They are.
Your best advice might not work for your friend because he/she is an entirely different person, no matter how similar you are, and how many dark secrets you know.
In the end, we need to solve our own problems. The solutions we create are based on our most private needs and desires.
No matter how well we know someone, we can never get all the way in their mind to figure out what it is they truly want and need.
Probing questions are the only insight you can give: What is it that you want? What is the solution you’re hoping for?
And they shouldn’t feel pressure to tell you their answers.
Two, when we advise we take some responsibility for our friend’s happiness.
If your splendid advice didn’t meet their hopeful expectations, they may blame you, or hold some form of resentment.
But there is an exception, as there is to every rule.
When you’re friend directly requests your advice. Still, don’t get too excited to spill out all your wisdom.
Remember the 2 things that happen when you give someone advice:
—You undermine their problem-solving skills
—You take responsibility for their happiness
So proceed with caution.
“If I were in your shoes, I would…but that’s me. Do what feels right to you.”
2. Avoid amplifying on one feeling.
Feelings rarely como solo. They’re always accompanied by another.
Angry, tired. Resentful, sad. Excited, nervous. Confused, emotional. Aroused, happy.
It’s common to feel angrier when we were also feeling lonely, but can cause our friend to feel overpowered with anger because we’ve been focusing on that feeling of anger in our conversation.
Possibly, if our friend hadn’t shared troubles with us, they might’ve cooled down and been level-headed enough to find their own solution.
3. Don’t pin point the bad guy.
Just as we don’t want to focus on one feeling, we don’t want to pin point a bad person—giving our friend more ammunition, outrage or indignation.
Remember you’re only hearing one side to the story. One person’s frustrations, needs, and feelings. But there are two people that have needs.
Be as neutral as possible. Be there to listen. But most importantly, validate them.
Do this by reiterating their experiences, their feelings and their current situation.
Most of the time we need a sounding board to our current dilemma, to find clarity and reasoning.
4. Be logical AND emotionally supportive
This is about being a little bit more adrogynous, having a masculine and feminine side.
When your friend complains to you about their relationship problems, it’s best to respond with logic (not solving the issues for them with advice, but offering practicality) and emotional support (validate their feelings, be their listener, and inspire them to be motivated and brave).
If you’ve seen the film Hidden Figures, in one scene where the 3 main characters are in someone’s house playing cards, one of them is complaining about her circumstances of being black and needing extra classes at a white high school to be an engineer at NASA, and her good friends have listened to her and then told her to stop complaining and do something about it!
Octavia Spencer’s character made it clear to stop complaining. Just go to court and do something about it!
So don’t just offer an ear to listen, but also logic when it is needed.
5. Resist being the only line of defense.
Usually, if you’re a good friend, you’ll be the first responder if something comes up, but when it’s chronic for every issue that’s a red flag.
If your friend goes to you first every time there is an issue, encourage them to talk to their partner first.
When your friend comes to you every time about their relationship trouble, take notice to see if anything is getting resolved, or is it nothing new?
A couple should be able to communicate their problems and yes, there’s nothing wrong in confiding in a friend—but—if the couple rarely communicates with each other and they chronically involve other people, that’s a red flag and they need to learn how to communicate with each other.
It’s time for professional help, not just friendly help.
Remember, without social support our struggles become all the more heavier and more difficult to cope with or solve. You can be a big difference in someone’s life. All it takes is a nudge.
I commend you for reading all the way through—doing half the battle (being informed). Anyone would be lucky to have you as a friend!
June 09, 2017