I’m naturally inclined to be a “fix-it” girl. You know, the kind of person you tell a problem to (or sometimes just a reflection), and I immediately begin to offer suggestions on how to improve or how to handle. In fact, sometimes I get impatient with people who just want to talk about their issues and never want to get into what to DO about them.
But the issues with my daughter and her sleep habits have readjusted my view of giving advice so “freely.”
Here are the two main lessons I have learned about giving advice.
1) Remember your experience does not lead to the only solution. When it comes to matters of Biblical truth, we often find only one answer. Otherwise, as they say, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Friends were often so enthusiastic to share their experience with their kids and sleep that it left me feeling that their answer was the only answer, despite the fact that our kids were completely different. Yes, share your experience, but be sure to remind the listener (and yourself) that it is simply your experience. The information may be useful . . . or it might not be.
2) Sometimes the person needs encouragement, not advice. In fact, the very act of offering advice – even if well intentioned – can be condescending. Trust me, when you’ve had many a sleep-deprived night you have already researched online every possible method to try or reason she’s not sleeping, and checked out every book you can find on the subject. Additionally, all that advice can imply that the person is at fault. A friend recently shared a struggle with her daughter. While she did ask for some input, everyone (including myself!) was quick to share their thoughts on what she could do or ask questions to try to help her find the root of the issue. No one simply said, “Perhaps you’re doing everything you can. Persevere knowing your parenting is not the cause. It just might be your daughter.”
Please don’t walk away from this post thinking I don’t find sharing advice to be beneficial. I have learned much from the advice that others have shared with me. Sometimes I do need to be corrected. Just try to see the situation from the receiver’s perspective as well. And remember you’re sharing in order to help the person, not to prove how smart you are or to be the One who offered the golden solution.
So how about you? Any advice on giving advice?