How To Give Your Single Friends Love Advice That's Actually Helpful
Giving someone love advice that's actually helpful is a lot harder than it seems. When your single friend is asking for some guidance, it's natural to give advice based on your experiences or recite the typical clichés like, "You'll find someone when you least expect it." Although you may think you're being helpful, experts say, that may not be the case. In fact, there are a few common things people in relationships do wrong when they try giving their single friends love advice.
"People in long-term relationships often sound like baby boomers to me," Tom Ella, dating expert and one of the hosts of The Undesirables dating podcast, tells Bustle. "They’ll give you dating advice equivalent to your dad telling you to print out your resume and 'pound the pavement' to find a job in 2019. It feels weird to say that a staple human activity as timeless as dating can change, but it really can. Dating apps, the #MeToo movement, the Great Recession — all changed the landscape dramatically." Chances are, it's going to keep changing.
When you're in a relationship and you've successfully overcome challenges, you've worked through communication issues, and you've found that perfect balance between being independent and being part of a team, it's easy to think you've got the whole relationship thing down. But as Ella says, relationships are like snowflakes. No two are exactly the same. What may have worked for you, may not work for your friend.
So if your single friend ever comes to you looking for relationship advice, here's how to do it the right way.
1. Take Your Personal Experience Out Of The Conversation
It makes a lot of sense to give advice based on your own personal experience. But as Greta Aronson, licensed professional counselor, tells Bustle, it's important to take your personal dating experience completely out of the conversation.
"While the intentions are good, it tends to shift the focus away from your single friend and onto you," she says. For instance, saying, "I was really lonely too until I found my boyfriend in a bar!" is only going to remind your friend that they're single, and it may even give them false hope that their life will turn out like yours. When it doesn't, it can leave them feeling even more discouraged. So instead of bringing yourself into it, keep the focus entirely on your friend. "Think about the type of person they are," Aronson says. How do they handle their emotions? What do they value in a partner? What are their long-term goals? Once you have that information, you can talk about a plan for moving forward.
2. Listen Without Making Any Judgments Or Assumptions
Since it's your friend, you probably have a good idea of what their dating life is already like. Chances are, they've vented to you more than a few times. However, just because they're coming to you to vent, it doesn't mean they need you to offer up advice. The one thing that people tend to forget to do the most is listen.
"It’s so simple," Cherlyn Chong, dating coach for professional women, tells Bustle. "Just listen, and you’ll find out a lot about your friend's worries, fears, and expectations." It's equally important to watch what you're saying. According to Chong, you never want to blame your friend for being single. The worst thing to do is to tell your friend that the issue is they're "too picky" or they probably come off as too intimidating. "That doesn't make anyone feel better at all, and they are not unlikely to ask you for help again," she says. Instead, you should start by suggesting an action. Start by saying "You could try ..." and end with "What do you think?" It's a much better approach than attacking their identity.
3. Help Your Friend To Identify Their Patterns
You never want to make it seem like it's your friend's fault for still being single. If you know that your friend keeps dating emotionally unavailable types or they're making choices that aren't really healthy for starting a relationship, you can help them see where they need to improve. Being too direct can come off as judgmental. So the best approach is to ask them questions. "Ask your friend if they're really changing their strategy or if they're doing the same things that aren't working for them over and over again," Stef Safran, a matchmaking and dating expert, tells Bustle. When your friend is the one to identify their problem areas, they'll be much more likely to make changes for themselves.
4. Show Empathy And Be Encouraging
"Often advice can feel patronizing and blaming — suggesting that they’re single because of their own behaviors," Dr. Marisa Franco, relationship expert who has a PhD in counseling psychology, tells Bustle. "Instead of advice, offer empathy and emphasize their worth." Sometimes all someone really needs is encouragement. They may just need to hear something like, "Dating is really hard and you're doing the best you can. You definitely deserve someone who's just as great as you are." This way, you're not offering up advice. You're empathizing with them by recognizing how tough dating can be, while helping them remember their worth. Dating can be really tough on someone's self-esteem, so it doesn't hurt to remind them of how great they are.
5. Avoid Clichés
"When someone is single one size does not fit all," Safran says. "When people get generic advice like, 'It will happen when you least expect it' or 'You have to kiss a lot of frogs,' it does more to bother someone than to show support." While some old dating clichés are true, it's the last thing someone wants to hear when they've been struggling. Telling someone that they just haven't found the right one yet is obvious and not helpful. So, try to avoid clichés as much as possible. If you really don't have a specific piece of advice for them, it's OK to just stay quiet and listen.
6. Set Boundaries With Them
It's easy to get really invested in your friend's love life, especially if yours is stable and going well. But the danger in this is getting too involved. So it's really important to set boundaries. "To avoid becoming codependent with them, have faith they’ll do the right thing," Treva Brandon Scharf, life and dating coach, tells Bustle. "Give them guidance, but also draw boundaries so you don’t take on their pain and suffering." Give them space to make their own choices and be supportive when they do. Also, let them know when they're asking too much from you. Listening to someone's problems and helping them solve it can take a lot out of you. It's hard to give someone good advice when you're emotionally drained yourself.
7. Don't Be Mad If They Don't Follow Your Advice
Listening to someone and giving them advice takes quite a bit of time, thought, and energy. Just remember, you can do everything right and give them thoughtful advice, but it doesn't mean that they'll actually take it. "Don’t be upset if the other person doesn’t agree or doesn’t end up following your advice exactly (or at all)," Ella says. "It may have been great advice, but everyone needs to make their own choices and handle things their own way." If this happens, that's OK. You've done all you could.
So these are some expert-given tips to give your single friend love advice the right way. But in general, you should only offer up advice when someone actually asks for it. That way, you know they'll be more receptive to it and you won't be wasting your time.