Anyone who has friends will understand the situation I am writing about today. The subject today is in regards to giving friends advice. Anyone who has been in this situation (and I would guess most of my readers have been) has felt the indignant irritation when realizing that a friend, who has come to you in confidence, has completely ignored everything you have said to them. Frankly, why shouldn't you be annoyed? After all, you likely spent hours, maybe even days, going over the situation and hashing out a plan of action that will provide the best benefit to the friend in need only for that person to toss all that time away! You have wasted every moment you spent in that situation; almost.
Understand one thing, unless your friend is, in every way, an idiot, they will at least recognize your efforts and love all you the more for being there for them; even if your advice was never intended to be taken seriously. However, this knowledge alone is not exactly productive. It's not like the people we know are likely to change no matter how many times the same situation pops up. This is especially true of situations regarding relationships.
Well, as the topic indicates, I am going to give you, the trusted counselor of your friends, some advice. Before you make any assumptions or conclusions on what the best course of action is for your friend, you must take a few things into account.
First: Get as much information as you can about the situation. You will need to determine if this is a relationship problem, a professional problem, or a family issue.
Second: You must get a feel for the emotional condition of your friend. How are they reacting to the situation and, based on your knowledge of them, what do they really want out of it.
Third: Don't make any assumptions as to what is really best for the person in question!
Why are these things important? Simple, if you can't establish the real issue for your friend, then you don't have a hope of helping. In most cases, this is probably the easiest thing to do. However, there are events such as relationships in a professional environment or relationships and family problems which can skew the information. You must first establish if the real issue your friend is having is really what they want you to think. This is especially true when considering co-dependence. If your friend is in a relationship with someone at work and there are problems that could get them fired, then the real issue isn't going to be the job, for instance. Since most problems with skewed causes or intentions tend to be in relationships, let us frame the remainder of this blog on that.
Your friend has come to you with a problem. They are concerned that they could lose their job or that they can lose some family ties over a person they are dating or otherwise seeing in secret. It would be a good idea at this point to get right to the heart of the matter. In your own way, you will need to determine what the motivation is regarding your friend's attitude. Are they defending the person they are seeing, are they defending the job and their place in it, or are they defending a family member? It will likely be that they are defending the person they are with as most other concerns become secondary for someone who even allows their relationships to be a problem for work and family.
At this juncture, you will need to find out what level of emotional intensity your friend is at. If they are hysterical, crying, freaking out and so on, then your only purpose at that moment is to calm them down. Also, you will need to accept that nothing you say is going to matter once they are calm. Hysterical people typically work completely by impulse and thus, nothing that is said will matter as they themselves are not likely to know what they might do when the situation comes to a head. Telling a hysterical person to let go of someone they care about in order to save their job or mend wounds with family is not the kind of advice that will ever be accepted. Hysterical people are often emotionally unbalanced anyway and it would be best for you, as a counselor, to try and distance yourself some. Calm them down, then simply advise them to think about what they want and act on it. That way their actions (which is likely to be the same no matter what is said or done) will remain entirely their own and you don't risk being blamed when their relationship fails... (which it likely will when hysteric's are a common mode)
If, however, your friend is already calm, or simply upset, then you have a chance to do some good here. Now remember, giving your friends orders will not likely amount to much. If your friend is someone who defines themselves by the person they are dating -which is very common- then don't try to convince them they need to be single. This is a concept so alien to them that they couldn't possibly understand it, even if they were willing to listen to such "nonsense" Sadly, even battered women rarely, if ever, listen to the "break up with them" advice and will actually come to see you as an enemy if you persist in your efforts. It is imperative that you keep calm and don't insert your own moral sense into the situation. The only advice anyone with relationship problems will listen too is advice which either helps them to justify themselves or validates themselves.
With this knowledge in mind it is best for you to form your advice within the framework of your friends real motive. If you know them to be someone who always has to be in a relationship then don't advise them to be single. They won't listen and will even resent you for considering it on option. Instead, try framing your advice on positive aspects of their character and try to formulate idea's that will appeal to the relationship/co dependence motive. Telling them they can easily find someone else and even give some options on who is a good start. Get them talking about people that interest them, other individuals who have qualities they like. Once they can break that barrier of fear (in being alone) they are much more likely to get out of a crappy situation and move on to hopefully greener pastures.