It’s a wonderful time as January is coming to an end and the spring slowly starts to show itself in Prague. Or I mean…you know, it’s kind of the same since it hasn’t been a big difference between autumn and winter here. But anyway, what I meant is that there’s a smell of change in the air, which is a nice feeling. 

I’ve been through a lot of changes recently. Accepting my burn out state as something that was negatively impacting all areas of my life and deciding to take a break has put me face to face with some powerful emotions. Some I decided to navigate towards speaking with other people, be them my therapist, friends or my partner. Some I had to tackle by myself, which I tried with all my force to avoid. But…hello life, it happened, I hated the process, but now looking back I am so thankful I had time to myself to think things through and unblock some things that were keeping me from being…well, me.

One of the topics that I am working on is, both in giving and also asking healthily for, support. I’m still on a bit journey of learning more about it – what support means for me, how can I ask for it properly, how to identify the people that can support me in a healthy way. And also, the big Q, how do I better understand how to ask for support from my side. Because let’s be honest – no one forced me to work over schedule and exhaust myself, no one put me in a position where my job became the center of my life. It was me not being able to ask for support constructively, not accepting that I am in over my head with some things that I simply can’t manage efficiently.

Throughout this journey thinking, researching and looking for ways in which support is expressed and the value it brings, there was one big concept that popped up again and again: advice. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to hear about other people experiences and somehow see how it can help yours. So thank you, but…we all need to make sure that we offer advice and not just opinions.

I’m a strong believer that at this point there’s too much political correctness thrown around and that sometimes that makes communication difficult and less to the point. I agree with being respectful, I don’t agree with calling people out when it’s clear that they don’t know how to better word something. Regardless of this, I think there are thoughtful (and tactful) and less so ways of getting a point across and that we do need to be careful when trying to help someone with a problem.

Looking at my reactions when it comes to giving and receiving advice, I put together below some points that I use to guide the way I express support in the form of advice:

  • Be sure the person you’re talking with wants advice. Ask them what kind of support they are comfortable with, be sure that they don’t need to just vent. Before offering your view on the situation and stating what you would do if you were them / what you did in the past if you encountered similar, make sure to ask if they want advice from you. In this way, not only you make sure you don’t overstep some boundaries, but you also make them pay more attention to what you are saying, providing more insight.
  • Be considerate towards their situation. If they are already exploring options themselves and you just tell them how you would do it better, that’s putting their thinking behind. Don’t forget that everything is a complex web, so the person asking for advice is the only one who can judge if the solution is truly better or not – they know all the circumstances, are aware of more information (don’t assume they shared everything with you). The best you can do if offer different advice than the path they were looking at, which makes it clear that it is still their decision on what route to opt for there. You show you understand, you offer your view without pushing it more.
  • Do not try to convince. If the idea isn’t received with open arms, don’t try to oversell and push for it. If you get questions, answer them with all your heart. But advice is the kind of thing that gets to be sold only through an elevator pitch. Short and sweet.
  • Be supportive, regardless of the final decision. The worst 4 words you can use after giving advice that wasn’t taken into account are „I told you so”.

And in the end, just act with kindness and don’t forget:

„All the advice in the world won’t help you if you don’t help yourself”

– Fred van Amburgh

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