Posts Tagged ‘ANON’

How To Give Unsolicited Advice

Monday, June 21st, 2010

How should you offer unsolicited advice? You shouldn’t.

This morning I rode a bike trail that includes an underpass and a particularly steep ramp. It’s one of my favorite routes, but for me that ramp is a killer. No matter how hard I try I can never get quite enough momentum to crank to the crest. I always stall just before reaching the top, so I have to just hold myself steady, make sure I don’t roll backward, and inch my way the final three or four feet.

So this morning I was maintaining my stalled position and creeping forward when a guy rolled past. He called over his shoulder, “You should shift to a lower gear before climbing a hill.”

Wow. If only I’d known…

I confess—my thoughts at that moment weren’t something like, “Hosanna, the Lord hath provided. Praise God for sending such a wise and generous man.”

I wondered if he really thought I didn’t know about shifting gears. If he’d taken a moment to understand the situation he’d have seen that I was indeed in the lowest possible gear. I would have assured him that I had tried a number of strategies, but my lack of dexterity and strength hasn’t allowed me to conquer this particular challenge yet.

But he didn’t bother to even slow down. He simply tossed out what felt like a dismissive, condescending nugget of drive-by advice. I wonder what he intended, what he was thinking—or if he was thinking.

Did he imagine that his pearl of information would help me reach the top of the ramp? Not likely, since you can’t change gears while stopped on a steep incline.

Was he concerned for my immediate safety? If so, perhaps he might have slowed down to ask if I needed help.

Some advice is a shortcut that demonstrates a lack of genuine concern. Providing helpful feedback requires time and patience and the commitment to engage in authentic relationship. It’s much quicker to provide a quick “If I were you”—even though you’re not—and then move on.

Sometimes advice generates a false sense of superiority. Since I’m clearly not as smart as you, I’ll never be able to figure this out on my own. The only way for me to avoid a mistake is for you to tell me what I should do.

Advice is often a simple quest for short-term results. I don’t really care whether you learn principles that might enhance your ultimate independence or problem-solving capability. I just want the answer or the sale or the immediate gratification. We’ll worry about that other stuff later.

When I speak to groups of kids about disability issues, they’re often concerned about how to help without offending. “What should I do if I see someone who appears to need help?”

My answer is to ask if there’s something you can do to help. This doesn’t guarantee that the person won’t be offended, because some folks look for excuses to be offended. Whenever someone asks me that question, I smile and thank them for asking. Usually I’m fine, but occasionally I do need a little help and I always appreciate the concern.

So if you see an old bald guy stalled near the top of a ramp, don’t tell him what he should have done. He’s probably self-conscious enough already.

But don’t just ignore him, either. This might be the day his shoulders are a little fatigued, and maybe he’s about to lose his grip and crash. He might appreciate a little push, or he might thank you and tell you he’ll be okay.

Either way, you’ll know you offered with a heart of service and love.

Are you ever tempted to offer unwanted advice to kids, spouse, or friends? What’s a better response?

It’s not my place to solve your problems. My job is to love you while you solve your problems. Cec Murphy
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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site

Don’t Make Me Your Project

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. Saint Augustine

“I hate feeling like I’m someone else’s project!”

I’d just finished sharing part of my story with the group. I expressed my gratitude for the people who wove the story of Relentless Grace and my belief that God sent this small circle of folks who refused to let me quit on life.

This guy (I’ll call him Don) limped toward me, shook my hand, and thanked me for my willingness to be vulnerable. Don explained his own physical challenges and said he understood my reluctance to accept help (The Hardest Thing).

He related some uncomfortable incidents in which well-meaning people tried to help but he felt like he was their “project.”

Don described feeling like he represented a task to accomplish, an item on their checklist. We chuckled as he compared himself to a household job like a broken pipe that needed repair. He said that some people acted like they had to “fix” him so they could move on to the next entry on the to-do list.

“Does it always feel like that when others help?” He shook his head. “So what’s the difference? What’s missing when accepting help makes you feel like a project?”

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I just know that it feels like they’ve decided I’m broken and I need to be fixed.”

After a few minutes of discussion, I proposed this summary: “I wonder if that means that they care more about helping you than they care about you. I wonder if it’s about relationship.”

I have a good friend named Jim who really gets this. Jim loves to do things for people, but even more than that he loves the people. When he does you a favor, you feel like he’s the one being served. He just has a knack for doing a project and never making you feel like a project.

Jim helps others because he loves Jesus—he’s my image of “Jesus in blue jeans.” But those he helps never feel like they’re part of some organized ministry. He sees a need and meets it without losing sight of the person behind the need.

As I think back on the story of Relentless Grace, I see people who cared about me, not about what was wrong with me. Their help wasn’t a project—it was an expression of love.

I wonder about my own efforts to help others. Do I unintentionally treat them like a project? Do I take the time to care for the person, to listen, to genuinely value relationship?

Do my actions reflect gratitude for the opportunity to serve?

Does this distinction between “caring about helping” and “caring about people” make sense? How has either notion played out in your experience?