Dos and Don'ts of Advising Friends
I’m an advice-giving friend. I didn’t choose this life; this life chose me. People saw me as a good listener, so they would tell me things and ask for my opinion. I figured hey, I’ve got opinions. So I would share them. When I was a kid the questions were about crushes and friendships (she’s talking about me behind my back, what should I do? kind of stuff). As I got older, the topics skewed heavily toward relationships. I was giving advice about relationships before I’d even had one. (Hey, I was young and didn’t have sense enough to say I didn’t know what I was talking about.)
Giving advice can be a tricky business. There were a few times I got caught in she-said she-said situations. Other times, friends have gotten angry at me because of something I suggested. I learned from past drama and improved my advice giving skills. When done with good motives, giving thoughtful advice can empower and support your sister circle. I came up with these guidelines to follow so I could best help my friends. And because I was not about to get caught up in drama based off of something I said.
DO listen and ask questions. Make sure you’ve got the whole story before making a recommendation.
DO check your friend’s motives. Some questions don’t need to be asked in the first place, so they definitely don’t need to be answered. You’re not wrong to respond “Why do you ask?”
DO give advice based on your friend’s goals or values, not your own. For example, if you’re celibate, and your friend’s asking how to snag a one-night stand, it’s not the time to suggest she try celibacy. Or if she asks for help sliding in someone’s DMs, it’s not helpful to say “What you need to do is leave that white person alone and stick with melanin.”
DO try to see both sides of the situation before making a suggestion. Consider the consequences because you’re (I hope) giving advice to help not hurt. Plus, if things go left, your friend might blame you.
DO take into account your friend’s personality and habits of the person asking for advice. Is she the type of person who doesn’t give all of the details? Does she say only negative things about her significant other? Does she take responsibility for her actions? These types of things affect the kind of advice she needs to hear and how she might receive it.
DON'T be afraid to say “I don’t know.” If you’re not qualified to consult on a subject, then don’t. If possible, ask someone else.
DON’T give unsolicited advice. Don’t be that judgy friend that thinks she’s got it all together so everyone should learn from her. You’re not Iyanla sent to fix your friend’s life.
DON'T give advice based on what you would do. Your friend is not you. “What would you do?” really means “What would you do if you were me?”
DON’T keep giving advice to people who don’t take it. People are often going to do what they want to do anyway, but if someone keeps coming to you and not taking your advice, there’s a problem. Maybe you give poor suggestions. Or maybe the person you’re trying to help doesn’t really want change. Either way, continuing to give that person advice will only frustrate you.
DON'T tell your friend to break up with their significant other. Nine times out of ten they won’t do it, but they’re going to remember you told her to and think you’re a hater. She’ll also be less likely to talk to you about her relationship because of what you might say. So save your breath.
Have you ever given advice to a friend, and it backfired? Share your story below.