Friendship: How to Give Good Advice to Your Friends

I am always encouraged by the number of people who reach out to me asking how they can help their friends. I often direct them to my blog because they can find advice to pass along on many different subjects.

HOW TO GIVE GOOD ADVICE

However, I realize that even people with the best intentions don't always know how to offer advice in a way that is effective...in a way that others will actually listen and accept. Have you ever tried to give someone advice, but they tuned you out or got really mad at you?  I have written this blog to provide some important tips for how to give good advice that is effective.  This is a crucial place to start because unless someone is going to actually listen to what you have to say, your advice will not be effective.

4 Steps to Giving EFFECTIVE Advice

LISTEN. This is SO important.  Unless a person feels heard and understood, they will never trust the advice you are giving.  You must take time to gain an understanding of where they are coming from.  Ask them questions to show you really desire to understand. Then state back to them what you've heard them say by summarizing, "So what I hear you saying is...Is that right?"  This way you are both sure you are on the same page, and they know you understand them.

ENCOURAGE. This is another important step that cannot be hurried over.  Before diving into any advice, encourage them in some way. Tell them that you believe in them or encourage them that there is help available.  Unless you start with encouragement, they may be stuck in such a negative place that they have no hope of things ever-changing.  And then, when you offer them advice, they might not believe they are capable of acting on any of it.  However, offering encouragement opens the door to HOPE and prepares them to be ready to hear what you have to say. So, find SOMETHING to encourage them with.  You can focus on a past success or the potential they have.  Or here are some other examples..."It was an important first step to admit what your struggle was." "You sound like you are really ready to make some good choices." "You are not alone." "There are people who can help you and I'm here for you too."

ADVISE. The best way to give advice is by getting their involvement in deciding what they should do and influencing their thinking in a positive way. Involvement - In order to have people buy into any advice you are giving; they need to be involved in the discussion and the decision.  If you can get them to arrive at the decision of what to do next on their own...so that it is their idea, they will be much more committed to the decision and more likely to follow through. In all my years of talking with people, I have found that much of the time they know the right thing to do, they just need someone to confirm it for them. Here are some ways to involve them:

  • Ask them what they've already done to try to better their situation and why it may or may not have helped.
  • Ask them what else they think might be helpful.
  • Offer a suggestion of your own and ask them what they think about that idea.

Influencing - As they come up with ideas you can influence them toward or away from what they are thinking based on whether or not it is a good decision through asking more questions. Questions like this are often helpful in influencing their decision:

  • What do you think would happen if you did this?
  • How do you think you would feel afterwards?
  • Why do you think that is a good idea?

PRAY for them and with them. I believe that with God's power anything is possible.  Any situation can be solved, any addiction broken, any heart mended, any wrong made right.  Maybe not immediately and maybe not how we thought, but God tells us to bring our requests to Him.  So, PRAY and let them hear you pray!  Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

5 Things to AVOID When Giving Advice

  • Being Judgmental - Nobody will ever confide in you if they feel that you are going to judge them. You don't know what they have experienced. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Preaching - Do not just talk at someone. Involve them in the discussion through lots of questions and listening.
  • Offering a solution too quickly - It is important to really listen and gain a full understanding of all that they are struggling with, what their perspective is, and what they've already done to try to fix the situation.  By saying, "Just do this and it will all be better," you minimize a problem they may have been struggling with for a long time.
  • Gossiping - If they are afraid, you won't keep their confidence, they will not tell you anything.
  • Thinking you are going to fix them or their situation - It is not up to you to fix anything. You just need to be a safe place where they can talk, receive support, and hear a new perspective on their situation.

It is also important to be able to recognize common thinking errors and know how to challenge them as the advice-giver.

5 COMMON THINKING ERRORS

  • Over Generalization - Example: NOBODY likes me.
    Challenge: Look for exceptions to the rule. "Well, John likes you
  • Jumping to Conclusions - Example: He crossed the road to avoid me.
    Challenge: Reality checking - "How do you know he crossed the road to avoid you? What other explanations could there be?"
  • Catastrophizing - Example: The meal was a complete disaster. They will NEVER talk to me again.
    Challenge - "How likely is it that your all your friends will turn against you if your cooking is not perfect?"
  • All or Nothing - Example: The things I do are successful or a failure; perfect or disastrous; right or wrong.
    Challenge - Put a third option in between the two extremes - Successful, Good but needs a few improvements, failure.
  • Turning a Positive into a Negative  - Example: She would not be so kind to me if she knew what I was really like.
    Challenge - Point out the positive then challenge the evidence used to make it a negative - "Maybe she does not know you completely, but she really likes what you did."

I hope these tips will help as you reach out to make a difference in the lives of those around you!

Are you wondering how to be a great friend? Here are 9 tips to become a great friend.

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3 comments on “Friendship: How to Give Good Advice to Your Friends”

  1. I need help, my friend is going through a nasty break up, I never know the right things to say to her, she gets mad because I feel like anything I say is wrong!

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