Have you ever had someone give you unsolicited advice?
have you asked for advice but later felt ashamed, or felt worse AFTER you got the advice?
We always think that this is the way to go. For example, let’s say you have a problem that you can’t solve or you feel bad about something and don’t know how to move forward. What do you do? You pick up the phone/Skype/Whatsapp and reach out to a loved one: a close friend or family member. They love you and will handle you with care, right?
Well, not necessarily. You know the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”? This is where you can see it in action. Because the advice-giver wants so badly to help you. That is their good intention. BUT the truth is, they end up failing us miserably and never meant to.
Why doesn’t it work?
The first reason is simple. No one knows your life BETTER than YOU! Nor have they journeyed through it the same, no matter “how close” it may appear. Nor could they ever fully understand things the way you do about your life. Why do we do it then?
We are brought up in a society that teaches us to always find the answer outside of ourselves. It makes us insecure and in turn, we don’t trust ourselves. But if we learn to practice stillness or some call it, mindfulness through meditation or other such practices, we can hear our own answers all the time! The more you practice the stronger it will get. If you think about it before you called your best girlfriend, you probably already had an answer to the situation. But you called anyway to either get validation or because you didn’t trust that answer.
The other reason that advice doesn’t usually work is: You are asking a lot from this one person. When you open up that conversation you both are in vulnerable states. You feel inadequate and lost. She feels a huge responsibility to help you and care for your feelings (or not, depending on the situation). Ultimately, someone is going to fumble. It could end with words like, “You are not listening to me!” and “I was only trying to help!” Then a hang-up, or awkward silence. It will take time for the friendship to cool off before you come back to it.
What happened here?
The advice she gave came from her own life experiences. When you begin to tell her the situation, she will “listen” to your problem up to the point she finds herself in your story. Meaning she can “relate” to an aspect of it. This is her way to justify her put-upon advice giver status and feel like she is actually helping you. AHA! I know what to say now, could be a thought your friend has during your explanation. She is only actively listening for her entry point NOT totally what you are experiencing. You will hear the advice-giver say things like, “I know what you mean because I’ve been through something similar…and this is what I did.” Here’s your action plan!! But do you like it? There will be something that doesn’t fit or make you feel good. This is called dissonance. You will feel a twinge in your stomach that is the opposite of an AHA moment feeling. Your mind will say, I asked for this so I better make it fit. OR you might fight back because she has misjudged you and your situation. This can get a little ugly.
This is also how it’s not like Coaching. Coaches do not counsel or advise clients but guide them back to their own inner guidance. You know the initial answer you had all along. 😉 Here is how that conversation may go:
The Coach will say, “That doesn’t sound like a good situation. How does that make you feel?”
The Client, “I’m really sad and hurt.”
The Coach, “I can imagine. What do you want to do about it?”
The Client, “I want them to know how it makes me feel.”
The Coach, “Have you done that?”
The Client, “No.”
We continue the conversation from there. This type of thing may take some time. It could be a pattern that needs its own healing before the client can feel like they are ready to do anything with it. Or there could be more to the story that we haven’t heard yet. But if I jumped in here, and say, “WHY haven’t you told them!?” I would have inadvertently judged her and suggested that she is weak or worse, her fear already, inadequate in handling her own life!
As a coach, I’m listening to the client and asking questions that maybe she isn’t able to do for herself. I’m also getting to know how SHE processes her emotions and interactions with others. I’m not pushing my own ideas, my own agenda or life experiences on her. It almost always makes a person feel worse. Coaching is really about: understanding the whole person by listening to that person and using compassion. Which I hope you can see now is very different from giving someone advice.