The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine. She is currently in a bit of an upheaval (quitting her job, not sure if she has chosen the right career path, looking at buying property with her hubby), and was unsure whether she had done the right thing. All I had to say to her was ‘If you don’t want to do that, then don’t. It will all be fine”
She looked at me and said “That is all I wanted to hear. Why doesn’t hubby get that? When I stress out and talk to him about it, he says things like ‘Well, maybe you shouldn’t have quit your job…’ or ‘Are you sure it’s the right thing to do then?’ I just want him to tell me it will all be OK’”. He probably didn’t understand because, to the logical person, ‘What do you think’ is generally an invitation for advice. Well… guess what, it isn’t!
Often when women are ‘asking’ for advice… they aren’t really asking for it. Hell, that probably goes for men too. If we are stressing out about a choice we made, and are saying ‘are you sure we did the right thing here?’… well, we are probably looking for validation more than anything else. We already made our choice, now we need someone to calm down the nerves and help us live with our decision.
This holds true for so many things. I ‘ask’ for advice all the time. Deep down inside, I know what I actually want to do. I also know what is the right thing to do (and sometimes, this conflicts with what I want to do). Often, I know what decision I want to make at the end of the day. I can work all this stuff out for myself… even if I don’t really want to. So, no matter what you say, I will probably stick with the course of action I already had planned. I’m just looking for you to validate my decision, to make me feel better about the choice I had made, or to sympathise with me for having to make a decision that I don’t much like.
Occasionally, I will ask for advice where I honestly have no idea what I should do. This is such a huge danger zone for other people… because I haven’t made up my mind, am likely to change my mind at least 50 times, and will snap over it at the drop of a hat. Especially if this is something of a personal nature. Besides, deep down inside, I probably know what to do. The larger or more important the decision, the more likely it is that I already know what I am going to end up doing.
If you are the advice giver, you need to be careful. Don’t validate really really stupid decisions. If it’s something you find wrong, then say so! At the end of the day, you aren’t responsible for what someone else does. However, you are responsible for what you say and do, so if it’s something you really couldn’t live with… say what you bloody well think.
Example A: Judy and Lisa are out clubbing. They have both had a bit to drink, and Judy gets offered an ecstasy tablet by some random guy. Judy says to Lisa “What do you think? Looks like fun, never tried it before, I think I will.” Now, Lisa of course shouldn’t say in this instance “Oh sure, why not, do whatever you like, it will work out fine”. She should say “That’s a really really stupid idea, you don’t know what could be in that, yada yada yada”
Well, that’s an extreme example. But, you know when a friend is asking for advice and they look like they are going to make the wrong decision? TELL THEM SO. Just make sure that you are supportive of whatever it is they decide to do. Unless it’s murder or something. That would be kinda bad. And don’t get too upset if they don’t take your advice, because, well… they might not actually be looking for it. They might just be wanting someone to tell them that it’s all OK.