Giving advice: What would happen if we were to listen instead?
Advice. “An opinion that someone offers you about what you should do or how you should act in a particular situation”.
How often do we receive advice from others? How many times we all heard something like, “You should find a new job”; “You must exercise more”; “You have to start a diet”; “You need to be more proactive”. How annoyed does it make you feel? What would you replied if you could say exactly what is going through your mind at that moment? It doesn’t matter whose it comes from or how well that person knows you. Why should anyone know better than YOU your needs and wants? How would they know about your inner struggles, your daily challenges and your most deep dreams? What makes them believe they have the answers to your questions?
Now try to think from the opposite angle: When was the last time you gave advice without being asked to? It probably made you feel useful and important. Most certainly you did it with good intentions, trying to comfort a family relative or encourage a friend. Though how do you think that person felt? Most likely the same way you feel when you’re given advice.
You might be asking, “What’s the message here?”, “Should I never give advice to others I care for?”, “Shouldn’t I share my opinion when someone talks to me about a challenge or issue they’re going through?”. You can always share an opinion or give a recommendation. After all, it is what we’re used to do all the time. However, I’d dare you to try to do something different next time: Listen and ask questions. Let the other person talk freely, give her the space to pour out whatever is happening inwards. Listen carefully to the words, the hesitations, the silences, the body language. And if you must speak, then ask relevant questions about what you’ve just heard. Questions that could help the other gain more awareness about the situation and arrive at different scenarios.
Giving advice might sound a great skill, though what’s its impact and lasting effect? Every one of us has their own rhythm, their own way of dealing with challenge and change. We will act when we’re ready in our own terms. When transformation comes from within, when the answer comes from a place of awareness and wholeness; then change is lasting and more sustainable.