Recently I was asked “When (if at all) should I offer help when I see my friends take unhealthy decisions or chase wrong things?” I would like to answer this from the perspective of being someone receiving advice and someone giving the advice.
There are a lot of people in my life who want to care for me/ advise me on various things without me asking for it. Let’s classify them into three broad categories.
Most of the people I meet advise me that I should start planning for children. Prior to this they were lecturing me about getting married. Let’s look at this from their perspective. For a normal human, important milestones in life are marriage and children and then vehicle and property. Rest of the things don’t matter. Prior to the stage of marriage, I was an overachiever in my studies. According to them, getting married and having children at the time decided by society is again an achievement which I should not miss out on. They are genuinely worried and concerned about me. But, did they give me a chance to ask what I would like to focus on in life? Do they want to understand my perspective towards life? Are they aware that, if I am making a mistake, I am willing to face the consequences and learn from them?
In my full time job, I work as a data scientist where the industry is vast and everyone has their opinion on what is the best. Each person I meet has some advice for me on how I should grow based on their own experience. Whatever worked for them doesn’t necessarily work for me. I like to listen to different versions but I hate it when people start pushing their agendas on me.
Similarly as a side hustle, I work as a healer/therapist. Some day I would like to pursue it as a full time job. I am often asked “When are you doing it as a full time job?” It is a good question to ask and it is inspiring and motivating for me to speed up the process. But it starts to get creepy when they are upset that I don’t pursue it full time yet. “You are so good at this.” “Why are you running away from your life purpose?” etc etc etc.
I very much understand your concern. But I have financial goals to meet. At this age, I can still squeeze in both hence I do it. In future when I have other priorities, I will definitely have to quit my full time job.
3.My healing journey
Healing is a very personal journey because you are a unique soul. There are so many modalities out there but all of them have a few basic principles. What worked for you, doesn’t necessarily has to work for me. But definitely I like to learn about different modalities to see what is something I can keep going back to. I get annoyed with people who say this is the only way out there.
With the above examples, does it mean that I don’t need any advice or be egoistic to turn down everyone?
Here are some guidelines I follow while I receive advice from others:
- Is their advice based on fear/societal norms/personal agenda vs is that advice coming from understanding what I want in life?
- Have I put them in a position where I want to receive advice from or have they self-declared themselves to a position where they want to provide advice?
- How much of the information they have mentioned are facts? How much of it is their opinion? In what ways is their research biased? In what ways do the facts and opinions apply to me or not apply to me? Do I have the bandwidth to consume them?
- If I follow or not follow their advice, am I willing to face the consequences (good or bad)?
At the end of the day it is my life. Good or bad, best or worst – I am the one who is taking decisions mindfully laying out all possible consequences and taking calculated risks.
Providing advice for others
In a professional setting, I have no personal agenda involved in guiding others. I go in a neutral way laying out the suggestions by understanding what the client wants. I don’t take my friends as my clients because I might be biased based on the lens I have looked at them in the past and they might not be able to feel comfortable to open up to me about the aspects they don’t want me to look at.
So the advice I give to friends and family happens in a non professional setup.
Case 1- When people put me in an advisory position
My style of giving advice is alway through questions. I don’t want to be telling anyone what they should be doing with their life. I absolutely hate it when someone keeps telling me what I should be doing, so I don’t want to do the same to others. Instead, I keep asking them questions until they figure out what is the best option for them. This option might be totally different from what I want. But I clearly lay out the consequences for them to see and if they still choose it, it is their destiny and they have some important lessons to learn from it. I am not responsible for their actions. I make it clear that it is their choice and their actions.
Case 2 – When I put myself in an advisory position
I do it in cases where people gently hint that they are looking out for some solutions. I keep sending them links, guidance on what works and services which they can try out to see what suits best for them. Whether they follow it or not is not my headache.
Then the other category is parents and grandmother where I assume responsibility for myself. I have pushed my parents and grandmother into different kinds of healing modalities every time I discovered something. I follow up with them and introduce them into the newest modality I try until they can find what suits the best for them. If their old age is my responsibility, taking care that they are not getting old too soon is also my responsibility. Right now, my mother and grandmother settled with reiki. I am still figuring out what suits best for my dad.
Here are some guidelines you can consider to figure out when you should give advice.
1.Someone is not aware of the alternatives
A friend was suffering from ankle pain for a very long time. In general if a pain is taking too long to heal, it is a psychosomatic issue. You will see faster relief through alternative healing like energy cleanse or subconscious rewiring. Initially she was reluctant, but she knew the alternatives. Eventually she opened up to this and found relief from it finally.
2.Someone is consumed by their emotions and is not thinking straight
When someone is depressed, they look at the world as black and white. They need someone to remind them of the colors out there.
3.Someone is looking for change because they are tired of the drama
You see these kinds of people telling you “I need to start a new life. I am done with this.” They are looking for information and guidance. You can be of help there.
4.Someone needs push all the time
Some people in general do the work only when they get a push. And they are also subconsciously asking for it.
5.Someone doesn’t think through all the options
You know that this person in general doesn’t consider all the options. But at the same time, if you are dealing with someone who thinks that they are thinking through all the options, don’t push too hard as you will hurt yourself in the process.
When should you not give advice?
- When the other person is clearly coming to you for venting out and enjoy your healing energy, don’t waste your emotional energy also on this person
- When the other person is very stubborn or arrogant or with strong boundaries, they will need to learn their lessons the hard way.
- When the other person can easily blame you for the bad consequences.
What are some common reasons why people are not paying heed to your advice?
- They think they know it all. You are not a subject matter expert to them.
- They are listening to you and would like to try it out but don’t have the energy to overcome their resistance to pursue it. In such a case, you can help them with their resistance instead.
- They have given up even before trying. They have tried so many things and now have no energy left to try something new all over again. You can empathize with them and help them pass through this stage of ‘Nothing will help me’.
- They are not willing to take responsibility for the consequences.
- They are not able to understand your viewpoint which you took weeks, months or years to learn in the one statement you are suggesting. It would be helpful to guide them step by step to help them realize the solution rather than mentioning the solution.
What should you keep in mind while giving the advice?
- Are you a subject matter expert? Do you know how the solution can pan out? Do you know the person enough to know that this will work out for them? If you are not a subject matter expert, it is better to shut your mouth. I was once a victim of taking such a decision based on half knowledge advice someone else had for me. It is better to not give advice than to give advice with half knowledge. Someone else’s life is at stake.
- Are you being rigid about your solution or are you giving a plethora of choices to choose from and explaining the possibilities or consequences of each of them? I once had a friend who would keep saying “Your choice”. But the choice was a yes or no. That always sounded manipulative to me. A real choice is multiple options to choose from which helps in choosing an option which suits you the best and not pushing your only solution on the other person.
- Your duty is to only be the guide and not be emotionally involved in their lives as it leads to codependency. Sometimes I feel like overextending myself to my clients or family to not see them suffer. But I understand the limitations and I step back to help them figure it out on their own.
Happy helping out others!