The Best Support You Can Offer Isn’t Advice


Are you the person everyone goes to to talk about their issues? Do people start telling you their life story out of nowhere?

If you’re that person, you probably have natural gifts that help you be empathetic + supportive. But you might also experience a lot of frustration when you’ve spent your time + energy trying to support someone and they don’t take any of your advice.

Let’s cut down your workload in relationships and conserve some of that energy, and make your efforts more effective.  Here are some things you can do instead of giving advice.


Listen without Judgment

When someone shares information with you about their life, their issues or a problem they are facing, your natural instinct is probably to help them in some way.  It seems like the person wants a solution or ideas to make their situation better, so you get to work doing just that.  However, most of the time, the person just wants to vent.  Getting their emotions out by talking about it is the only help they may need.  Are there times when a person is seeking advice or ideas on what to do? Yes.  But unless they specifically ask for it, it may be best to just allow them the time and space to verbally release the emotions by just being a listening ear. 

Listening without judgment means you have less of an emotional investment, so you don’t get frustrated by offering advice or help that is ignored.

If you sense that they might want feedback, you can also directly ask:  is it most helpful if i just listen or do you want reflections? 


Acknowledge their pain

It’s natural to try to put a positive spin on a negative situation, which is why you may be inclined to always tell people to “look on the bright side” and point out what good can come out of the situation.  Although this seems like a good strategy that can be helpful, it could make the person think you are invalidating their feelings. This is called toxic positivity and you can find more info on this from one of our previous blog posts HERE

A better approach can be to listen and acknowledge the person’s pain.  Negative emotions are normal and it’s not a bad thing to experience them or point them out when you or someone else is going through them. When you simply acknowledge a person’s pain without trying to put a positive spin on it, you are validating their feelings and letting them know it’s okay to feel what they are feeling because it is natural.

Good examples would be:  “that’s hard”, “I would be frustrated too”, “Totally makes sense that you feel that way”


Encourage Them to Keep Going

It can be easy for a person to get stuck and keep replaying or reliving a bad situation because they do not feel seen or heard, or they feel bad about what has happened and think they are at fault.

“Human behavior is extremely predictable. We all want to be seen and heard. We want to know we’re “good” and we subconsciously deeply want to stay in our familiar (even if it’s miserable) because this is where we feel most safe.” (LePera, Nicole [the.holistic.psychologist]. “People don’t want advice…they want to be heard and validated” *Instagram, March 9, 2024. https://www.instagram.com/p/C4TUgCSROUq/?igsh=ZDE1MWVjZGVmZQ==)

This can lead to a cycle that’s hard to break out of  and you could also get sucked into replaying or reliving the situation in an effort to help them make it right.  

People need support and encouragement to keep going and move forward.  It may not look like providing advice or solutions to the problem, but simply encouragement to deal with the situation the best they know how and take the necessary steps to put it behind them.  

Resist the temptation to “fix it” for them and just be there to listen and validate their feelings. 

It may feel good to know that the people in your life trust you enough to bring their problems to you, but it can be hard to be the “go-to” person for others.  It can be draining and helping others should not have a negative impact on your own mental health.  

If you find yourself supporting everyone else, who is supporting you? Our therapists can help you bring your relationships back into balance so that you can enjoy your relationships AND have space and time for you.



1 Comment

  1. […] Understand that they are feeling things on a different level than how you would feel them, and they may need help managing their emotions. Some of the best help managing emotions is simple attunement: I can see and understand that you feel this way.  It does not mean trying to fix things for them (unless they ask you to). See our article about the best support you can give right here. […]


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