So I felt a bit bad that several of you, after my post detailing some of the advice I’ve received, apologized for having given me advice in the past. It’s not so much that these tips weren’t smart or wise or really good ideas… I know that everyone who gave me advice over the years LOVED ME deeply. I know this and never doubted this, AND it wasn’t always what I needed.
It got me thinking about advice in general, when it feels good to receive it and when it doesn’t, what kind of advice is helpful and what is not. A lot of you also commented that it’s so great to know what might not be helpful to say to a friend or family member going through infertility (or any other difficult thing) but it occurs to me that I haven’t shared what would be helpful.
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my coaching training is to be careful about giving advice. Going for problem solving, fixing and caretaking is a sure way to kill the energy of a coaching session. So what’s the alternative? There are two things that come to mind: One is being in a space of curiosity and the other is simply being with your friend or loved one going through the hard time.
It is one of those classic complaints that women have about men. “He’s always trying to fix everything! I just want him to listen to me.” Having someone tell you what you should do can be strangely disempowering.
So back to being curious… It could look like this: What is it like to be going through this? What kind of support do you need? What scares you about all this? What helps? How do you need me to be?
Then there is the “being with” part, which by the way, Matt is really good at. We watched a Dr. Phil episode once on managing toddler’s tantrums and they were saying that what works is matching the energy of the toddler. “Yes! That is so frustrating! You are so frustrated right now! That toy is not cooperating!” Within moments the toddler would calm down. It was like homeopathic medicine. Giving the child a small dose of their energy had a neutralizing effect and they felt heard. Soon after this, I noticed that Matt was naturally doing this with me when I was in a really low, dark, place. He’d hold me and say, “I know! It’s so hard! You’ve been doing all the right things. It’s so frustrating…” And this is all I really needed from him. I’m sure there were times when he wanted to tell me how to be, to relax or trust or have faith. I always appreciated when he simply met me where I actually was. Faithless and all.
What I have also appreciated are other peoples’ personal stories. The people that have gone through this (or had other experiences of grief) and reached out to me were a fundamental part of my healing. I think storytelling is one of the greatest ways we humans have of touching each other, connecting and healing one another. Your stories are always welcome here.
As I move toward parenthood, I’ve been warned that I will get far more unsolicited advice than I have ever gotten in my life. At the moment, I am open to what I like to call “hot tips.” If you have hot tips for me, I would love to hear them! All of you moms and aunties and godparents out there have a lot of experience. Hearing stories of what has worked for you and what hasn’t is exciting to me.
This is my little instruction book for how to give me advice. What’s yours? What helps? What doesn’t?