Do you ever get annoyed when you complain about something to a friend and they immediately jump in with a solution to the problem? You might think offering advice to someone who is struggling with something would always be the right thing – but sometimes it’s best just to listen instead.
I’m sure you’ve experienced times when you were annoyed or frustrated about something and you went to a friend or family member to express your feelings about it. Then, when you’d finished, they said something like, “That’s easy enough to solve – why don’t you…?” Even though they were trying to help, you may have felt annoyed by their suggestion.
That’s because, sometimes when we’re having a hard time, we don’t want people to jump in with solutions because it may feel as if they’re dismissing our feelings as invalid. If they think the situation is easy to resolve, it may make us feel as if we’re being silly to be upset. And there may well also be aspects of the problem they don’t understand, which mean the solution they presented won’t work.
Sometimes, rather than advice, we just want sympathy and understanding. I always try to listen to my humans’ problems without judgement or advice, and just offer them a friendly ear and a squishy hug to make them feel better.
So, next time someone comes to you with a problem, think about what the best response might be. I suggest validating their feelings and offering them some comfort is always the first thing to do, regardless of what you may think about how they could solve their problem.
Try saying, “I’m sorry to hear you’re having this problem. It sounds really hard and it’s totally understandable that you’d be upset. Would you like a hug?”
Then later, once they’ve had a chance to accept and appreciate your support, and the situation perhaps seems less overwhelming, you can always ask them if they’d like to talk about how they might go about making things better.
That way, you’re offering them the benefit of your advice, not only in a way that makes it easy for them to refuse it (at which point you should accept their decision without resentment – see the post from 4 August about bananas…), but also in a way that empowers them to be part of the problem-solving process, rather than you just barging in with your opinion.
Why don’t you give it a try and let me know how you get on?
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