Ask This Question Before Giving Advice

A personal reflection as I care for my sick grandmother.

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Think back to the times someone has come to you with a problem; did you immediately jump to giving advice? It is human nature to attempt to support others with our experiences. As I watch my maternal grandmother’s last stage of life as she is battles COVID at age 93, I am lucky to be surrounded by many caring loved ones. I know they all mean well, but sometimes instead of empathizing as I share my struggles, they jump to explaining a similar challenge they previously faced in their own life. Despite their good intentions, I feel silenced as they pivot the conversation to themselves so I refrain from sharing major details.

In my personal experience, I have found that solutions and wisdom are not always necessary and that, oftentimes, being heard is enough. Not every problem has a fix; if it does, people can usually find the solution within themselves. The next time someone comes to you in a challenging time, lead with the phrase, “I want to support you.” Then, ask these questions to ensure your well-intentioned support is helpful.
“What do you need right now?”
“Do you need comfort or advice?
“Do you want to hear a story of how I made it through a similar challenge?
Who can you empathize with to provide a touch of light through a challenge?

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