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How Loving Advice Turns Into a Weapon That Kills Relationships

How Loving Advice Turns Into a Weapon That Kills Relationships

“Don’t be upset.” “You shouldn’t worry so much.”

All of these statements are seemingly harmless and are meant to be helpful. But unfortunately, they are not either of those things. In fact, these statements could be construed as dismissive or insensitive. When your partner is already experiencing a period of doubt, the lack of support from you could lead them to even question your feelings for them.

Sharing a problem is sharing a piece of mind

When a person gets more intimate with someone, they are more willing to share their inner thoughts with them. They won’t just share how they feel with anyone because it’s only this “someone” that they can trust.

So when your partner is sharing their issues with you, they are making themselves vulnerable. When they share things like “I’ve had a tough day at work, my boss kept assigning me tasks even though I already had a lot on my plate,” or “I tried to help our neighbor out for her housework because she’s sick, and now I’m just exhausted,”  they’re not looking for a solution. They just want to vent to someone who will listen and try to understand.

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    Wanting to fix a problem is natural

    Instinctively, when someone shares with you about their bad day, it’s human nature to want to help out, especially someone that you hold near and dear. By offering help and support, you are by no means intending to be offensive.

    You may say things like “you shouldn’t worry so much,” or “from now on I will handle it,” or “but you shouldn’t feel that way, you should just…”

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      But sadness doesn’t need to be fixed

      This sort of problem does not require a solution on your part. They’re not asking you for one. And saying things like, “don’t worry about it,” is rude and dismissive. This is offering unsolicited advice when your opinion was never asked for to begin with.

      Your well intended advice could make them feel belittled, which will make them feel even worse because they are not receiving the support they need. This misleads them to think that you don’t care about their feelings, and you don’t try to understand them.

      Think about your partners issues like metaphorical houseplant. Plants need to be watered. But they don’t need water all of the time. Trying to be helpful because you think you know what it needs, you over-water the plant. You think you’re doing a good thing, but the plant doesn’t actually need more water.

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        The disclosure of their problem was not an invitation for you to try to solve them. It needs to be expressed and processed.

        Sometimes plants need water, but at other times they just need some sun. Sometimes people need advice, but at other times all that they really need is for you to listen and show that you are trying to understand. So instead of “over-watering your plant”, place it under the sun to give it the nourishment it needs.

          Purge the urge, be the rock

          When you are someone’s rock, you offer support simply just by being there. The rock doesn’t offer advice. The rock offers a place to rest until they are strong enough to continue on.

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          If there is no invitation to give advice, don’t. Chances are your partner doesn’t actually want it. If they did, they would have asked for it. Especially if your “helpful” advice entails what they should or shouldn’t do, how they should or shouldn’t feel.

          Sometimes things that you say with good intentions can be received negatively, ultimately making things worse. There are a few things that you can do to demonstrate active listening and to just simply be there for your partner.

          • Give reassurance through body language. Just listen. Keep eye contact and nod reassuringly as they are stating their points. This shows that you are intently listening, which is all that they really want.
          • Validate their feelings. Instead of saying, “I know exactly how you feel, it’s hard.” Say, “I can never understand how you feel, but I can see that it’s very hard for you.” This way you are validating their feelings without being belittling or condescending.
          • Show your consideration. Process everything that they have said to you and reiterate it in a way that shows understanding. Instead of saying, “you are under a lot of stress,” say,” you have a lot on your plate. The last thing you need it even more. I can see how this is very stressful for you.”

          Lend an ear. Listen. Let them process through their issues by talking through it. Just simply letting it out might make them feel better.

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          Anna Chui

          Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Chief Editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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          Last Updated on July 8, 2020

          How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

          How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

          Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

          For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

          But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

          It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

          The Importance of Saying No

          When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

          In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

          Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

          Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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          Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

          “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

          When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

          How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

          It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

          From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

          We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

          And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

          The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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          How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

          Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

          The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

          1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

          Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

          2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

          Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

          3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

          When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

          6 Ways to Start Saying No

          Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

          1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

          One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

          Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

          2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

          Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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          Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

          3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

          Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

          Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

          4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

          Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

          Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

          5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

          When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

          Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

          A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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          6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

          If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

          Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

          Final Thoughts

          Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

          Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

          Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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          Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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