When To Give Advice by Jennifer Olden, LMFT

My dad encouraged me always to confront a company that has unfairly charged me for a service poorly rendered.  He recommended that my approach be friendly and assertive, and when/if I don’t get results, ask to talk to the manager.  He believed that it’s better to use a carrot than a stick, and that the phrase, “Can you help me?” pulls for support instead of defense.

Great advice.

I consciously ask for advice from the wise ones in the world, and I always have some good advice just ready to be shared with the world.

Go ahead: ask me anything.

So believe me when I say it’s unfortunate that advice has serious limitations.

For example, when I work with couples, if one person is speaking from a deeply vulnerable place and the other gets nervous and wants to solve the problem by giving advice, it inevitably backfires.

The person sharing wants connection, closeness, understanding; to be seen and accepted even for this part, the part that doesn’t make it out into the world very often.

The person sharing wants to be vulnerable and loved in the exact same moment.

That is the ultimate redemption, and can be the antidote to past historical relationship trauma.  It’s the big taco and the whole enchilada.

The person listening wants closeness, too.  They love and care for their partner, and suspect (mistakenly) that it’s the vulnerability blocking the connection.  They’ve got some advice, and it might even be fantastic advice.   It could be the perfect fix.   But that’s not the point.

Advice won’t help until the emotional connection is made.   Everyone needs to feel loved, accepted, cherished, understood.   Then and only then is it time for advice.

First, though, you build the emotional bank account.  First, you reflect and understand and love and share a similar vulnerability.  Then you give advice.  Your partner is much more likely to be open and ready to respond if they feel heard and understood.  And if you’re patient enough to really understand the struggle, who knows?  Your advice might even change.

Couples Blog

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Strong Love Long,

Jennifer Olden, LMFT

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