When you see your friend suffering, your initial reaction is to help them in any way you can.
Like most people, you’ve probably thought of giving advice.
Maybe you’ve gone through the same situation before, or you have a few good suggestions in mind.
However, even if it feels like it’s the best thing to do, don’t rush.
There’s been a lot of research on how to give advice.
Mind you; it isn’t as easy as you think, but we’ve got some tips on how to give advice to a friend with relationship problems.
- The Danger of Giving Advice
- How To Give Advice To a Friend With Relationship Problems
The Danger of Giving Advice
Giving advice might be your first recourse when a friend confides to you about their relationship problems.
That said, there’s some danger to it.
You Don’t Know the Whole Story
First of all, giving advice ties you to a situation you’re not familiar with.
Let’s say your pal’s partner cheated on her not just once but twice. Obviously, she deserves better.
You then tell her to leave him for good.
It sounds like the best piece of advice until your friend tells you she can’t and she won’t.
When people give advice, they often base it on their experience.
Maybe you’re trying to relate your own stories so your friend will feel like it’s the best thing to do.
The reality is even if your situations are identical, there will always be a missing detail.
That said, your experiences aren’t always relevant.
Secondly, not everyone who comes to you to share their problems is asking for advice.
Unsolicited advice is a boundary violation.
Your friend might think you’re micromanaging their life by telling them what to do, even if that isn’t your intention.
Take note that “good advice” is an opinion. It is subjective.
Since a lot of advice is framed within a person’s experience or value system, we all fall for our own confirmation biases.
How To Give Advice To a Friend With Relationship Problems
Knowing how to give advice to a friend with relationship problems is very important because if you do it incorrectly, you may cause more harm than good.
Follow the steps below when advising a friend.
A lot of times, people tell us about their problems not because they want some advice. Instead, they just want someone to listen.
If they don’t ask for it, they probably don’t need it.
By nature, we respond with defensive defiance when people tell us what to do and how to do it.
If they do, they are most probably after the validation that the course they’ve chosen to take is the right thing to do.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for a friend going through relationship problems is simply to be there for them.
Listen without judgment. Once in a while, reflect on what you hear so they know you are listening.
Ask questions. Make sure you understand every bit of information.
2. Ask for Permission
While most people don’t want advice, some would appreciate input from the people they trust.
Still, they might be shy about asking.
To avoid the guessing game, ask your friend if she wants your advice.
You can say something like, “Do you want some ideas on how to improve your situation?”
This way, you give your friend an option to decide whether or not to heed your advice.
3. Avoid Giving Direct Advice
Even if your friend tells you she wants your input, avoid giving direct advice.
Statements like “You should do this.”, “Stop doing this”, “Make sure to…” are examples of direct advice.
It’s a big no because it’s like telling your friend that you are better qualified to decide how they should do things than they are.
The harm with giving direct advice is if they follow it and blow up in their face, your friend might blame you for their hurt.
4. Guide Them To the Right Solutions Instead
Here’s the thing; your friend most likely knows what to do.
It’s just that she’s so overwhelmed with emotions right now. This is where a friend comes into play.
By actively listening, you can help them determine their feelings and ultimately make the right choice for them.
Ask open-ended questions like “It sounds like you’re feeling…” or “What did you want to do then?”
Let your friends pause and reflect on what they just told you.
This way, you’re not only helping them determine the right thing to do, but you’re also helping them deal with the pain.
5. It’s Okay To Share Your Story
It can be helpful to tell your friend about your own experiences.
By sharing your own toxic relationship stories, you won’t come across as seeming like you’re judging your friend over her unhealthy relationship.
Share with caution. You don’t want your friend to think she should do the same thing.
Stick to sharing your past, and don’t turn it into advice.
Instead, you can remind your friend that a relationship isn’t supposed to bring her pain but love, peace, and joy.
6. Tell Your Friend You’re Always There
Helping a friend navigate relationship issues isn’t just about giving advice.
It also involves offering support and not judging.
Many relationship problems can’t be resolved overnight.
After letting your friend find the best way to deal with it, support her in the transition.
Go slowly. Listen more. And most importantly, be present.
Doing these is far more helpful than simply giving advice.
7. Offer Helpful Resources
Problems with relationships can be severe, such as those that involve violence or abuse.
If that’s the case with your friend, the more you should be cautious about giving advice.
The best approach is to direct her to helpful resources.
Most of the time, it only takes encouragement from friends and family for them to seek professional help.
Even for couples struggling with common marriage problems, therapy is an excellent avenue to sort things out.
Counseling helps them recognize and resolve conflicts and improve their relationships.
If your friend decides to go with counseling, offer to accompany her during her therapy sessions.
That’s the best way you can show your support.
Remember that most people don’t want unsolicited advice.
A lot often, they tell us about their problems because they simply want someone to listen.
If you really want to give advice, ask permission first.
Also, there are many ways to comfort and show our support to a suffering friend.
That includes being there for them and listening without casting judgment.