Caution when giving your friend advice

Author: By Jacqueline Brandwynne
Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tell me if this sounds familiar. Your friend has been complaining about transgressions and hurtful misdeeds on the part of their married or unmarried partner. This time your friend seems exceptionally upset. Then there is their plea of, “I really need your advice now!”

Giving advice is a sensitive matter. It means putting yourself in your friend’s situation without being aware of all the facts and feelings of the two parties involved. What do you really know about the circumstances? The probability is that you only get to hear one side of the story presented through the glasses of the advice seeker.

Most importantly, you don’t know what your friend’s emotional history is and whether it is the key reason causing the current disruptive relationship. Giving the wrong advice often backfires. It can cause loss of trust if the advice seeker feels that you’re not on his or her side. Worse, it can end your relationship altogether or bring about more pain. In my experience, the best course of action is listening to the grievances without putting forth solutions. Being supportive does not mean you have to come up with Solomon’s wise answer. It means giving your time, expressing your genuine interest, standing by emotionally, and letting your friend talk.

Most of the time, and this is especially true for women, the advice seeker isn’t looking for answers and solutions, but just wants to be heard, to air his or her feelings. By sharing the experiences with a trusted friend the advice seeker is more able to clearly see the available options and can then focus on making a decision.

Deep down your friend knows what she or he really wants to do. Sharing the story with you simply helps them to overcome confusing emotions. It is this very exercise of sharing that permits them to reevaluate if the decisions they consider may be precipitous or irrational. What they need and want is to voice their grievances without being judged. Sometimes they may even resent hearing your solution, even if they asked for it.

Suggestions and No-No’s:
As a rule of thumb, don’t suggest breaking up! You may end up being the villain if the advice seeker listens to you and then changes his or her mind and makes up with the unwanted partner. Then you may become “persona non grata” and end up being pushed out.

Instead, consider referring your friend to help from a professional or counselor. Or suggest she take some time off to let tempers cool down and reassess the situation at a later point. Don’t speak negatively about the advice-seekers partner. It may backfire. Let them tell the entire story. Don’t interrupt. That’s often what they resent in their partner’s unwillingness to sit and hear them out. They will appreciate having your undivided attention. Keep the information confidential. This is not fodder for the gossip mill. If you share it with others you betray your friend.

Do you have a question for Jacqui? Write us at We’ll pass it along.

Jacqueline Brandwynne has worked in the health and beauty industry for more than 25 years and is creator of the Very Private line of products (

Categories: Very Private

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