The wonderful, yet slightly disconcerting thing about best female friends is that they often know us better than ourselves. From listening to our innermost thoughts and seeing us in our darkest and happiest moments, they understand what makes us tick.
Best friends also have the advantage of being one step removed from our predicaments, which gives them a degree of objectivity - an ability to see the bigger picture when we are standing too close. And because of this unique position, sometimes, best friends are able to see exactly what’s coming next, when we have no idea.
But even when meant with the best of intentions, accepting advice from your best friend is not always that simple.
Psychiatrist, Marcia Sirota warns against taking advice from close friends, in spite of their honourable intentions:
“We love our friends and most of the time our friends love us, but they aren't always the best people to advise us on our problems in the workplace, with our families or in our relationships,” she says.
Although Sirota accepts that friends usually mean well and don’t harbour malicious intent towards us, she urges us to remember that our friends are biased and “for the most part, regular people with no particular expertise in the complex dynamics of human behaviour. They come with their own fears, beliefs and expectations.”
Elly Prior, RELATE counsellor and founder of professional-counselling.com, argues that it’s fine to take advice from friends but suggests looking out for the following warning signs when establishing who to trust.
“Do yourself a favour; don't take any advice from someone - family or friends – if they display any of the following traits,” she advises.
- They like to gossip.
- Their own relationships lunge from one disaster to another.
- They treat others - anyone - with contempt.
- They speak in a derogatory manner about others.
- They like the sound of their own voice.
- They can't help but turn any conversation to their own troubles.
- They're too keen to voice their personal opinion.
So, if we need to be wary when it comes to receiving “friendly” advice, should we exercise the same caution when doling it out?
Author of 'How To Be A Happy Human' Dr Pam Spurr, suggests the following tips if you're planning to offer your words of wisdom to a close friend:
Don’t assume: "We always assume that just because we have some good advice that we should open our mouths and share it. Not so. Advice is always best taken when it has been asked for. Having an open-ended conversation with your friend shows you’re not planning to jump in with advice. She’s much more likely to ask for it when she sees you’re being supportive."
Avoid finger-pointing: "No one wants to feel there’s finger-pointing going on when it comes to advice. Don’t start sentences with 'you should' or 'you shouldn’t' as it puts you and your friend in something similar to a parent-child role. You’re not your friend’s parent and such statements should be avoided. When she asks for your advice it’s far better to ask, 'Have you tried…?'"
Emphasise the positive:"Look at what she’s already doing right and spell that out for her loud and clear. She may be overlooking her successes or even small strides with the issue/problem and instead is overwhelmed by what she hasn’t managed to work out yet."
Plant a seed:"When you think you have a nugget of advice to offer definitely plant a seed in your friend’s mind. You can either tell her a story about someone you knew in the same situation who tried 'X, Y or said'. Or ask her, 'Have you ever thought of X, Y or Z?' giving her the opportunity to mull these over and come to her own conclusion."
Use empathy: If you’ve been in a similar situation then share your experience. This can be incredibly helpful as long as you’re not attempting to take over the conversation with your own life experiences. Remember this is about your friend and this should be helpful rather than making it about you.
We asked a number of users to tell us the single piece of advice they'd love their best friend to take. Below is what they came back with. The underlying theme? Love yourself as much as your best friend does...