Take sound advice from friends ...

... and leave the word "but" out of your vocabulary.

It's unfortunate that during one of the most stressful periods of your life you are forced to make life altering decisions. Unless you prepared for this event coolly and dispassionately ahead of time, you will find yourself forced to make one bewildering decision after another. Yet, if you are anything like I was, you are hard pressed to think straight, much less make sound and thoughtful choices.

Enter your family and friends. As I have discussed in previous posts, do not indiscriminately share all your feelings with everyone. Choose your listeners wisely. Click here on what I have written about this topic.

Once you have solicited your friends for advice, LISTEN. Do not interrupt. Do not use the word, "but." And here is why:

1. The friends you have chosen have your best interest at heart.
2. They are talking logically.
3. They are offering you a different perspective.
4. Closing off other options will leave you with fewer choices.
5. Brainstorming even the silliest ideas will sometimes take you to a different, better path.
6. Sometimes it takes weeks for their advice to sink in or for you to understand it.

If, on the other hand, you immediately say "but", this is what happens

1. You are closing your mind off and aren't actively listening.
2. Your friends will feel devalued.
3. After hearing "but" too many times, their sound advice will dry off.

This is what happened to me last year: An old friend turned to me for advice, which I gave her. The situation was dire. Her significant other, whom she had kicked out of her house the year before, had come back and moved in with her again. He had shown symptoms of violence before, and she was afraid to kick him out again. I solicited the advice of a mutual friend, a lawyer, found her a "safe" house to live in (my parents), and, along with the lawyer, created a time line of how to get rid of the bum, including notifying the police, changing the locks in her house, and moving into the safe house for the duration. I spent hours talking to her, assuring her we would back her up and help her when the time came.

Guess what happened. "But, but, but, but ..." She is still living with him. Worse, when she began to talk the same talk in April, I remained quiet. What was the point? I knew that for whatever reason she decided to stay with him, all she needed from me this time was the ability to vent. Why waste my breath again? To be fair to her, she has told me over and over that just knowing I care had lifted a burden from her heart.

So, as you solicit your friends for ideas, use your active listening skills and listen closely,asking questions only to clarify. Thank your friends for their advice, then tell them the truth: That you will take what they said to heart and mull their ideas over. Then, after the dust has settled, invite them over for dinner and let them know what a difference they've made in your life. When you need them again, believe me, they'll be there.

No comments: