It can be difficult knowing when to give advice if a friend is going through something you’ve already experienced. On one hand, you want to be supportive and share your story as insight. On the other hand, you don’t want to overpower their experience with your own. So, when should you give advice or just be quiet and listen?
A friend of mine recently told me over breakfast that she felt like people were giving too much advice about her pregnancy. She’s excited about becoming a mom, and she wants to talk about her life transition with other new or soon-to-be moms. But instead of it being an open, supportive conversation, friends are simply telling her what she does or doesn’t need in her upcoming role as a mom. We laughed about how people feel the need to force their opinions onto others instead of just lending an ear.
We’ve all done this at some point – blurted out our thoughts on a situation instead of listening unbiasedly – but why? Honestly, I don’t think that we mean to. Each experience in our lives helps shape who we are today. If someone we know is having a similar experience, we want to share what worked for us. But this can come off as brushing off or belittling their own personal experience.
Let’s say you’re getting married and talking to a friend about wedding veils. Your friend didn’t have a wedding veil and tells you that veils aren’t worth it. “You’ll only wear it for an hour or so, and it costs a lot of money,” she says. Or maybe you’ve just closed on your first house and a friend tells you he doesn’t like your neighborhood. Both of these reactions are completely unnecessary.
As part of the life cycle, we’re all going to experience a lot of the same things – babies, getting married, home ownership, changing jobs, etc. We aren’t, however, going to experience them at the same time. When it is our turn to experience something new, we deserve to relish in the situation and to enjoy all the newness that comes with it. We don’t need someone to rain on our parade or steal our thunder.
If someone asks your opinion, give it. If you want to give your opinion, ask if you can. Otherwise, don’t assume that a conversation is an open door for you to proclaim your thoughts about someone’s life. Further, don’t assume your opinion is wanted. Sometimes being supportive just means sharing their joy and being around to listen.