Consider this scenario: your friend has told you about a difficult life situation he/she is currently experiencing. Your mind is swirling with possible suggestions on how to deal with this difficulty. Should you jump in with your advice?
Marriage and Family Therapist Tony Bordenkircher says you might want to take a moment and reflect before you offer advice. He suggests asking yourself the following questions before responding:
- Can I enter into this conversation with loving intent?
- Is my advice going to be beneficial?
- Will this conversation cause more conflict than help?
- Is my input wanted?
- Am I saying this for my benefit rather than the person I’m talking with?
Tony calls these five questions “governing principles” that can help you decide the best way to approach a friend who has shared a life’s challenge with you. Perhaps they’ve told you about marital problems, a defiant child, or challenges with their own parents. In all of these cases, before you open your mouth to offer any form of counsel, take a moment to ensure that your words of support will be well-received.
Most of us want to help our friends. But before you rush in to provide what you think is “helpful” advice, give yourself a moment to reflect on these five questions. It might be that the only thing your friend needs is your support. No wise words needed, just a listening ear. That is often the best caregiving of all.