One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider a problem, can change our whole outlook on the world. — Dr. E. H. Mayo
When we are seeking relationship advice – or a sounding board – we need to choose that listening ear with care. We need to protect our relationship from unhelpful or toxic influences, just as we would protect a treasured plant from inhospitable conditions in our garden.
In this day of instant information and advice, I hope these guidelines will help you select trustworthy advisors.
When we need to talk
We all have times when we need to talk about a concern or issue in our partnership or dating relationship. Perhaps we are upset about something that has happened, frustrated with a recurrent problem or unable to let go of a resentment. At such times, it can be helpful to talk it out with someone. And it is in our best interests to choose that “someone” consciously and wisely.
I confess that I was horrified to learn about an Internet site designed to help people decide whether or not to leave their marriage. Individuals post their marital problems and then ask for others’ advice on whether or not they should leave. Anyone can weigh in with their opinion. Yikes! I liken this to someone with a health issue, who solicits advice from anyone and everyone — regardless of their medical knowledge and experience.
Consider the risk
I believe there is a real danger in exposing your precious primary relationship to the opinions and judgments of others, without discrimination. I believe we need to be responsible for who we permit to influence us.
This is doubly important when we are upset or struggling with a relationship challenge. At such a time, we are emotionally vulnerable – perhaps confused – and we are additionally susceptible to the influence of others.
If we receive wise counsel at such a time, we can experience a breakthrough in our own personal and relational growth. If we receive poor counsel, we may get stuck or side-tracked in a way that isn’t at all helpful to our relationship – and may actually harm it.
What to look for
When in need of positive support, here are some guidelines of what to look for in a confidant:
1) Someone who sees you as a responsible choice-maker, NOT a victim of your circumstances.
2) Someone who is supportive of you as an individual AND is also supportive of your relationship.
3) Someone who will listen with loving kindness, yet also give honest feedback when asked.
4) Some who accepts and respects you — and your decisions.
5) Someone who conducts themselves in relationships in a way that you respect and admire.
6) Someone who will celebrate your relationship success.
Watch for these red flags
When you are looking for constructive relationship support, I suggest you avoid the following:
1) Someone who can’t keep a confidence. The last thing you need is to have the privacy of your relationship compromised or gossiped about.
2) Someone who will blame or judge your partner – or will collude with you in blaming your partner. Blaming will not solve the problem or help you connect with your own power. It is a tempting side-track that never leads to problem resolution. Blaming will keep you angry and stuck.
3) Someone who has an “axe to grind” or is chronically negative – about men, women, relationships, etc. Such an individual has a negative agenda and may be looking for proof of their perceptions. They won’t be able to hear you objectively or listen with an open mind.
4) Someone who thinks they know what you need/want/should do – better than you do. This individual will want to tell you what to do, rather than listen for what YOU want.
5) Someone who isn’t supportive of your relationship succeeding. This person may look for an opportunity to say “I told you so”, rather than help you constructively resolve the situation.
6) Someone who doesn’t respect your relationship values.
Choose the best
So be discriminating about who you confide in — and who you don’t. Nourish yourself and your relationship by choosing your relationship confidants wisely. Protect your partnership from toxic opinions or advice — and feed it with the best of influences.
Until Next Time,
Shirley Vollett, BSW PCC is a Life and Relationship Coach, with over 20 years of combined experience in counselling and coaching. She loves to empower single and divorced individuals, who are frustrated or discouraged in their relationship quest. Shirley helps them avoid past relationship mistakes and create a game plan for attracting the “right” person for them. www.shirley.vollett.com