She was heartbroken and she poured her heart to you, the debris of that relationship she once talked about on Facebook, laid before you. You have been following their story including the first time they met, the highlights of their relationship, that luxurious Valentine’s date in a posh hotel—she all told that to you, because after all, she considered you as one of her best-est friends. You listened with a brick face as the rant went on for thirty minutes, until you cannot take it any longer. You shared a piece of your mind, the best advice you can think of now that she is newly-single. You shared those thoughts wholeheartedly—only to be rejected in the end!
“Don’t talk. Just listen to me.”
The words came out like spears that hit my face scarring the purity of my intentions.
Yet, think about it. Sometimes, the best advice is to not advise at all.
Yes, we all love giving pieces of advice as initially we want to help our friend in need. Our friend went to us, bear her heart out, and in the midst of that emotional situation, you may ask yourself, ‘So what now?’ ‘How can I help you?’
It felt great that she trusted you, among all friends, she went to you for comfort, and it made you feel good, trusted.
Before you started that long harangue, consider holding your thoughts first. Has it occurred to you that, in the end, your friend stopped revealing details about his/her story, instead? Instead, she walked out and never called you for a long time.
Situations like this happened because your friend may think that you took over the stage being that Knight in Shining Armor who heroically tried to rescue a Princess. In some situations though, there is no princess to be rescued. The distressed just wants another person to listen to his/her thoughts. And whatever advice you give will only be wasted.
Suspend judgment. Listen instead.
Irrational, clingy, weak. These are words that I can assign to this other friend when she told me how she kept emailing a guy who lives in another continent to keep the last threads of a dysfunctional long distance. She sent to me long chat messages, and sometimes, I don’t reply to them for two reasons. Firstly, yes, to some extent, I got fed up with her stories; and secondly, I am afraid of saying the wrong words that may only hurt her feelings. No matter how we consider ourselves as a ‘relationship expert’, there is no definite proof that we can fully decipher know how a friend feels inside out. And considering there are no hard and fast rules in life, our perceptions and pieces of advice may not work on the other person.
Only give advice when the other needs it.
Sometimes, we fall prey to the kind of thinking that we are more blessed, more self-assured, more confident to ourselves than the other person. And because our life is going well, we have to impart some goodness to our distressed friend. We want to play the role of an amateur psychiatrist who wants to make conclusions after a patient revealed his/her history. Some people take pleasure in these circumstances as being some sort of a hero would make them feel accomplished, like they have done an important mission that made them feel an extraordinary human being. #Feeling blessed. (sarcastic laughter)
To avoid this, pay attention to your friend’s actual needs. If you feel like giving an advice, ask permission from them.
“Would you like to know what I think about your situation? Would you want me to suggest something?” Ask these questions first before. Remember, it’s them, NOT you, who should pay close attention to, and who needs help! In the end, it is always their choice whether to listen to your advice or not.
Be patient and kind.
“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” ~Buddha
In the end, that person will still be your friend and that should not change despite a bad decision they had made in their life. In their darkest moments, show them your assurance and support—by simply being there and listening to them.
We have been hearing the phrase ‘moral support’ all our lives but often times, it is only portrayed as something that can be shown with words of encouragement. Actually, one’s presence is enough moral support to show your love and friendship. No words needed.
A few weeks after that incident, I learned that my friend formalized the breakup with her then-boyfriend. I am tempted to ask details about how she was feeling after the breakup but decided to hold my tongue instead. After all, it’s her privacy that I should respect. We continued doing the activities we both like—taking long walks, jogging at a park, going out for dinners and believed that she is getting better. All I can do is assume that she is getting better until that next time that she will tell me her problems and hopefully, I can be a good listener by then.