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Stop Giving Advice!
Newsflash: Your advice isn’t as important than you think it is. Follow these tips to see what your spouse really wants when they have a problem.


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Very often when your spouse asks you a question, it's not for a solution, it's for something else.


Most people who confess are looking for absolution, understanding or a cheerleader and want to hear things like, You’ll do better next time.
Many of our relationships are fraught with tension: Husband and wife, mother and daughter, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, and friend and friend. A root cause for many relationship issues is acting the role of the "royal advisor." We just love to give advice because it gives us status and a satisfying sense of self-justification. We love playing the archetypal role of the rescuer especially when we should be taking our own advice. Besides, when we feel stressed, giving someone else advice serves as a distraction from our own problems. It’s like starring in our own dramatic reality TV show.

You might argue that a friend or family member asked for your opinion; in other words, you did not give unsolicited advice like other lesser mortal wannabe-advisors. However, you will find that you can improve your marriage and other relationships—old, new and future—if you simply take my advice: Resist the urge to give advice, solicited or unsolicited. An added benefit is that you won’t feel resentful when people choose not to take your advice!

When someone, think spouse as a primary example, asks for advice, what he or she might really want instead is:

1. Confirmation of their thoughts: some people need to sort out their thoughts through circuitous talking to finally get to the point at the end.

2. Active listening to their reality: just announcing their reality objectifies it and allows them to get it off their chest and let it go.

3. Compassion about the human condition: a few kind words, a touch of the hand or a hug makes the person with a problem feel less alienated and more a member of the community.

4. No judgment: Your beloved (or friend) confessing a problem is not seeking condemnation or for you to file it away as a future "history lesson." Most people who confess are looking for absolution, understanding or a cheerleader and want to hear things like, "You’ll do better next time."

In very rare cases someone might actually want your advice. This might occur if you are a professional in the appropriate field of knowledge—in the form of free advice. Doctors and therapists experience this often.

So, how do you know if your advice is really wanted? Make sure to listen attentively to both words and body language. First, test the waters and ask a leading question, "What do you think?" Often after a lengthy monologue, the solicitor will say, "Gee, thanks, that was very helpful. I know what to do." Instead of saying, "I didn’t do anything," simply respond, "You’re welcome."

By All Means Give Advice

After your, "What do you think?" lead in try and use these tips:

* Use follow-up questions and statements because when someone wants advice, he or she will pursue it further and pin you down for an answer.

* When you are cornered, you can present your opinion (this is what I would do kind of thing). Keep it concise, open-ended and make sure to conclude with, "Follow your heart."

* Ultimately, try to do what general practitioners and internists do with their patients who ask for specific advice—they whip out their referral pad and write the name and number of a specialist.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of "Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life," "Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout" and "Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul," a stress-reduction specialist, a radio show host and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com.


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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.



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