How to give advice/counsel | INFJ Forum

How to give advice/counsel


Capitalist pig
Dec 30, 2008
A method that works well for myself.

There are several things that I have noticed over the few years that people have been seeking my advice. I
I often let my friends know I don't 'believe' in advice by slipping in comments like, "what the hell is advice anyway", etc. and that tends to be rather useful when they come to me with problems since I've already laid a foundation. The reason I do this is because a long time I ago I also recognized that:

the solution was hand crafted by myself and the only person I had to blame for it no working was: myself. I
If you figured this all out on (mostly) your own, then I'm impressed. You wrote down most of the principal techniques and theories that we use on the suicide hotline.

However, our bread-and-butter technique is tentative statements: "It sounds like you're upset because..." or "It seems like you feel betrayed when..." As you can see, tentative statements are where you sum up what the person's been saying, reflect their emotion(s) back at them, and make them acknowledge it. It's tentative, so it's easier for them to accept or deny it (in theory, I had a case last night where he still felt like I was telling him how he felt).

It took me a long time to realize how to show empathy. Empathy is so easy and natural, but if I say, "I understand," I'm showing only sympathy; sympathy is worthless to a distressed person. So, I had to work on showing empathy through tentative statements. Often, after I reflect a person's emotions back at them in one statement, they pause for a minute as if that's what they wanted all along.

I like to think of counseling as a mirror with a different angle; it allows a person to see themselves from a different perspective. Also, counselors, for me, have been great for coming up with ideas to overcome problems because they have more experience.

Speaking of coming up with ideas, you should always present suggestions as questions, preferably as questions like, "Well, have you tried doing..." or "What about doing...". When you present them as questions, the person will hopefully think about it before accepting it. If they do accept it, they usually feel like it's their own idea, which helps them stick to it.

Something that seems to help people a lot, especially if they're in distress and unable to sleep at 2am, is focusing on the next day. "After you hang up, what are you going to do?" "You're unemployed now, so what are you going to do in the morning?" Regardless of the time, I like to end the conversation by asking them their plan of action because focusing on the future often makes them feel better. Also, those questions are great for trying to close a cyclical 2-hour call.

Finally, remember that it is impossible for one person to know exactly how another person feels. Even if they describe the situation well, and I empathize as much as possible, I still will never know exactly how they feel.
Also, I find these techniques helpful to use on myself. For instance, this one girl hit on me recently, and I've been thinking about her a lot. Eventually, I said, "You're just being delusional!" Then, I started making up excuses for what I was doing. Once I realized what was going on, I said, "It seems like you're infatuated with her. yeah...I know. So what do you think about dreaming about her?"

I find it helps me actually work through my problems, it's a more interesting and fun intrapersonal conversation, and it just makes me feel better.
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If I write my problems down on paper I can usually work them out like that.
Slant, Well said. This is exactly what I have learned in my 18 years of existence.

I myself HATE hearing advice unless I ask for, which is very rare I only do it when I know the person I am asking advice of has both the same knowledge/experience as me AND more. So unless someone comes to me and makes it very obvious they need advice (like if they say "I need advice") I will refrain from giving to them.

My only real problem I have is often become emotionally involved to either the person seeking my counseling or to the entire situation itself, then i lose objectivity and i usually start becoming more judgmental of the person/situation.
Also when this happens I usually start getting full of myself in that I try to think that i KNOW what the person is really feeling. When really, I should know better: that I really can't KNOW what they are feeling. I can only go off what they tell me and what i can infer based on their behavior but I can never know exactly what they have been through and are now feeling.
Slant, I've tried the waiting 3 seconds thing, but often, people are just ranting and I can't get anything in. I feel that they want me to show empathy, so much that they just keep going until I show it. ...but how am I supposed to show it if they never stop talking for 3 seconds? ...but if I don't show, they'll keep on going.

This was especially the case the other day when I was helping a friend. So, has it been working for you?

Bladewing, becoming judgmental is bad, especially if they need empathy. However, it's good to take notice of how you feel during the conversation; those feelings can help you understand them better.
The point of the three second thing is to make sure that you don't interrupt a person. It usually makes someone feel disrespected when you cut them off, as if you aren't really listening to their problems and are just waiting for the opportunity to speak. Some people may continue to talk until you cut them off-- talking in circles about the same thing. But if they don't give a three second pause, it's very clear that they aren't giving you the opporunity to speak. The only option you have if you feel like you need to speak is to cut them off-- but they have indicated with their behavior that they don't want you talk by not offering a pause. It usually works for me, yeah.

But with some people I will cut them off--- and the reason, is as follows.I will determine from past behavior if listening to the person is a constructive use of my time. If someone calls you often, perhaps hysterial/drunk when they do so, talking about the same issues over and over again, it is clear that you cannot help them any further. When the word "ranting" is used, it leads me to believe that they do this often. Ranting, in my opinion, is a bit different than from when someone has a 'breaking point' and just needs someone to listen to them and walk them through their thoughts.

Although extroverts tend to work their problems out by calling people up and ranting, it doesn't work for many introverts to constantly be dealing with their problems. The only time I will cut someone off is with an extrovert or extremely needy introvert who calls me either on a regular basis about problems, or someone who may not call often but when they do call it's about the same issues that they have failed to resolve. Other than that, I think it's extremely important to listen.