What Advice Would You Offer a Friend?

by | 9 comments

Are you great at giving advice … but bad at taking it? Often, we’re great at seeing a solution for a friend, and we can easily spot the patterns and habits that friends fall into. It’s harder to get the same perspective on our own lives.

I know that I’ll often write blog posts of great advice which I’m not so good at following myself! Whether it’s about the importance of regular exercise, or the need for simplification, I don’t have a problem knowing what I should be doing … but it can be much harder to actually do it.

Perhaps you always feel that you are always an exception or a special case. You have no problem telling your friends that they should take time for themselves, or that they should love their body just the way it is … but somehow, you find it a lot harder to convince yourself of that.

This is a problem that a lot us (myself included) have, and it can really hold us back from achieving the progress that we want. Often, we get stuck in a particular situation, whether it’s a job, relationship, or pattern of behaviour – and we can’t see any way out.

Next time you’re facing a problem, ask yourself:

If My Friend Had This Problem, What Would I Say?

What’s your big problem at the moment? Imagine that your best friend comes to you with this problem. What would you tell them? What suggestions would you have?

In some cases, you might literally ask a friend to help you out. Glen Allsopp wrote about this in his experience with his mastermind group:

“Something that surprised me, however, was how much of the advice I received is something that I have said myself. Now, don’t think I’m disrespecting the advice I received, but it was very similar to what I have blogged about before or I would have said to someone in the same situation.” – Glen Allsopp

Glen goes on to point out that we often already know, deep down, how to solve a problem or get through a difficult situation.

Treating Yourself Gently

Are you constantly critical of yourself? When you make a mistake, do you berate yourself for not getting everything right the first time? When you lose your wallet, forget an appointment, or have one drink too many, do you tell yourself that you’re a failure?

Many of us do – and it’s not a healthy attitude. Think of it this way: if a friend came to you and confessed that she’d screwed something up, you wouldn’t start yelling at her and making her feel even worse. You’d probably say something like:

  • We all make mistakes
  • Everyone’s human
  • It doesn’t matter – you’re still my friend!

Before even offering advice, you’d offer reassurance and acceptance.

Now, how frequently do you do that for yourself? I’d bet it’s not often enough.

Becoming Your Own Friend

So how can you treat yourself with the same respect, love and kindness that you’d treat your friends?

First, you need to see yourself as the unique, valuable and already whole individual that you are. You have something wonderful to contribute to the world – you’re one-of-a-kind, the only person ever with your exact combination of skills and circumstances, interests and abilities.

That’s taken me a paragraph to say, but it’s something that can take years to achieve. If your self-esteem is low, or if you simply can’t believe that you’ve got anything to offer the world, don’t struggle on alone. Talk to a counsellor, or at least a trusted friend, about how you feel.

Secondly, you have to recognize that your needs are important. A friend reminded me this morning that “you’re no good to anyone else unless you take care of yourself first”. It’s easy to listen to this advice, but harder to act on it! You matter. Your health and your happiness are important (whatever you’ve been told, or whatever you’ve come to believe, in the past).

And thirdly, you must make a consistent effort. When you’re facing a situation that makes you want to throw your hands in the air, or when something goes wrong, ask yourself what advice would I offer a friend? If someone I loved was suffering through this, how would I help them find meaning and take away the valuable lessons from it?

So – over to you. What’s one of your current problems … and what would you say about it, if a friend was struggling with this issue?

Photo by Paul Swee