Support Versus Advice

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Social media can be such a magical place.  We can keep up with friends and family no matter where they are!  We can also keep everyone updated on what’s up with us without having to make 200 calls or having our phone ring off the hook with updates from our friends.  I love sharing about my kids, my hubby, my business, my travels, even our pets!  I shared a good bit when momma had her knee surgeries, several times asking for prayers and good juju, which clearly helped because she can outrun me.  I often share if one of the kids is home sick.  I share recipes I love or want to try.  I talk about my constant fight with myself about my weigh and whether I am ok with it or hate it.  Totally different story for another time.  And sometimes I even share if I am down or confused with something.  I love sharing!  I love asking for other’s opinions and hearing other points of view.  I think we are in a bad place once we think we know everything.  But sometimes with all the sharing, folks get confused.

Sometimes when we share, we share not seeking opinions or advice but to share that we are experiencing a rough day or even a rough time.  When we do this, we are seeking comfort, love, virtual hugs.  But with all the sharing and extensive list of “friends” it never fails, we get the, “oh that happened to my kid and we just used some baking soda and Vick’s and it cleared up,” or, “just make them eat,” or my favorite, “it happens all the time, you’ll get past it.”

While some of that advice can be good at times, there is a right and wrong time to interject your opinion or what you feel is helpful advice.  It happens in my business all the time, you go to share something helpful, and folks then comment with all the ways they do something.  Cool, I wasn’t looking for help, I was offering some!  In the last few days I have watched as some FB acquaintances, as well as real friends (yes, there is a difference), have posted about issues in their lives. Not complaints but updates of not-so-awesome-times.  None sought out advice or opinions, they just gave updates.  But so many comments flooded their posts with unsolicited advice or stories of when that happened to them.  I know that in that moment those folks felt like they were helping, but before you type, or speak, ask yourself one important thing:  did they ask a question?

Generally, if someone wants help or advice, they ask a question.  I often ask questions on social media for help or ideas.  But if I post a statement, I usually am just looking to tell a story or maybe snag a few virtual love buttons to know I am not alone.  I have a wonderful hubby and family, but sometimes you share as a stance of solidarity with your mom friends or other women.  I don’t tend to get too detailed on big hairy stuff, but sometimes you just want to put things out there, if nothing else to let others know they’re not alone even if they never posted about it.  And while all my years growing up in the south have helped me learn to let the sure-to-come unsolicited, and sometimes downright crazy, advice roll off my back, in certain circumstances it can make your eye twitch.  And some things these friends have been going through are heavy, exhausting, frustrating, and hard enough to deal with without every Tom, Dick, and Harry telling them they basically have been doing it all wrong and their way is better or how common something is and you’ll get over it.  Instead of advice they don’t want or using their hard time to make it about you and tell YOUR story, try offering support.  Say you feel bad they feel that way.  Say you hate they are dealing with that.  Say you would love to help with something.  Say you are there to talk if they want.  Just say you support them.  A little support goes a long way, much further than the unwanted anecdotes or advice.

So again, next time you feel compelled to “help”, ask yourself that important question of, “did they ask a question?”  This is a HUGE expression of self control to offer support over advice, but believe me, if you offer support and they want your help, they will openly ask you for it!  So instead of the unsolicited advice, just offer them love, comfort, and a shoulder to cry on if necessary.

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