If You're Not Going To Listen...
After just a few hours walking through Istanbul, I feel a distinctly different vibe from the rest of Europe. Istanbul is what’s known as a transcontinental city — a city that spreads across multiple continents, Europe and Asia in this case. And it shows. The food is spicier, the clothing is more traditional, and there isn’t much English to be heard. Before catching my flight from Croatia to Istanbul, I made use of my last opportunity to eavesdrop and heard this tidbit from the dinner table next to me.
“Well, if you’re not going to listen to my advice, why’d you ask for my help?”
I’ve heard this complaint many times. I’ve heard it from my friends. I’ve heard it from my family. I’ve even heard it from myself. I most recently heard it on a podcast where two “life coaches” were discussing frustrations with certain clients.
Everyone has been there. A friend comes to you asking for guidance; they’re in need of help to work through some problem they have. After listening to their problem, you consult your own life experience and instruct them on how to fix their problem. You provide a well-thought and logical solution, and you’re confident it’ll work. BUT, instead of graciously thanking you and running off to take action, your friend says “Ehh, that’s not gonna work for me”, “Ehh, I already tried that”, or “Ehh, I don’t think that’s right.” Or they listen to your advice, go back, and don’t end up doing anything about it.
One common reaction is for you, the advice-giver, to get upset and think “Well, if you’re not going to listen to my advice, why’d you ask for my help?” But isn’t that kind of a selfish way of looking at it? You’re essentially saying, “This is MY advice, and I’M going to help you.” When your friend — you know, the one who actually needed the support — doesn’t support your advice, you feel rejected and hurt. And this is completely valid.
Stepping back for a moment, I think there’s a collective misunderstanding of the situation. The problem isn’t that your friend needs advice. They already know, inside themselves, what they need to do. The problem is their fears and their insecurities, that inner resistance that prevents them from doing what they know they should do. The only real solution is for your friend to recognize this and muster the courage to act in spite of it.
So then what are you, the person formerly known as the advice-giver, to do? All you need to do is create a safe space and provide them the opportunity to talk through their fears and work through their insecurities. No judgement. No advice. Just be there. That’s all they need. Through that, maybe their situation will improve…maybe it won’t. But as much as you want to “fix” their problem, as much as that would give you YOUR satisfaction, there really is nothing here for you to fix.
This sounds simple, but it’s certainly not easy. Most times, the solution is staring your friend right in the face, and they just can’t see it. When this happens, try to remember, it’s never really about the nail.