In our energy zapper series, we are going to discuss how to protect your state of mind.
Energy zappers are habits or social behaviours which are a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately they do very little to enhance our sense of well-being. Why? They deplete us. I want you to know that in discussing these, I am not judging anyone. I’ve had to work hard on all of the aspects of protecting my energy at one time or another, and some I continue to struggle with.
For the most part, giving advice is a complete waste of your time and energy and rocks your state of mind. Before you disagree, I want to share a little exercise with you. Many years ago, a professor facilitating a counseling workshop I attended led our class through an exercise to demonstrate the uselessness of giving advice.
Exploration exercises to change your habits:
First, close your eyes for about 60 seconds and think about all the advice you have given over your lifetime. Do this now. Think carefully. Pull up all the situations, people, circumstances, problems, etc. where you gave advice. Keep going. Ruminate on all those precious pearls of wisdom you gave out. Now, open your eyes. Sit quietly and start calling up how much of all that advice was actually taken and put into place. Ouch! Not much, right? Pretty depressing.
Secondly, close you eyes again for 60 seconds.This time, think of all the advice you have been given over your lifetime. Keep thinking. Recall those talks from more experienced or well-meaning individuals regarding your teenage years, your job and career choices, your relationship issues. And when you are ready, open your eyes. Start honestly assessing how much of all that advice you took and implemented. Yikes. Hardly any? Well, maybe a little here and there.
Here’s the point. Most individuals do not want your advice. And, most of us don’t take advice. Even in counseling or therapy, effective therapists do not give advice. Why, because they know their clients will not take it, and more importantly, it does not empower them in creating meaningful change or sustaining it.
4 Tips for Staying Recharged
Catch yourself in the act. When you start to say phrases such as: what you need to do, why don’t you, you should or if I were you I would -catch yourself and stop. Don’t go any further. Save your energy and ask yourself will this help my state of mind?
Ask the person what he/she needs from you. The very best way to respond when someone comes to you with a problem, concern, or any conflicted situation is to ask the person what he/she needs from you. For example, does the individual need you to listen, to problem solve, to weigh the pros and cons, to brainstorm ideas or possibilities, or to assist or intervene? I have found that most people just need someone to listen. The trick is for you to be a good listener. What does that mean?
Be an active reflective listener. Remember, giving out unwanted or unsolicited advice is depleting! Being an active reflective listener requires concentration on your part, but it is energizing–it recharges your batteries. As you actively listen to another person, a real connection starts to develop. This feels empowering for both parties because you are engaging in a meaningful reciprocal exchange.
What do I mean by active reflective listening? As your friend, partner, spouse, etc. begins to speak, you are going to listen so closely and carefully that you will be able to reflect back (paraphrase) what the person said! Yes, you are going to move into counseling mode! Why? Because it works! After listening to the situation, start your active reflective response with phrases such as: What I am hearing you say is, it sounds like you, if I am hearing you right, you are feeling, or gosh, as I am listening, I am sensing that you are. Focus on the emotions the individual is feeling along with his dilemma. As you reflect back, the other person begins to clarify his thinking about what he wants to do. You are helping to guide the individual in the process of decision making without trying to do it for him.
If you have heard something incorrectly or didn’t quite get it, that’s OK. Keep listening. Keep reflecting. Also, keep Tip Two in mind as you are moving along in the process.There may be a need to problem solve, or to weigh pros and cons, and so on. Remain open to these other options but do not default into giving advice.
In closing, I don’t want to over-look those rare occasions when someone comes to you, sincerely asks for your advice, thoughtfully considers it and even applies it. That’s a great feeling when it happens. However, make certain the individual really wants your advice by checking in with him/her. Ask, “Is it my advice you are really looking for? Or is there some other way I can help?”
Remember, to conserve these pearls of wisdom until they are sincerely called upon. Protect your state of mind and energy and remain fully recharged.
For the next article in our series: How To Avoid Drama: Energy Zappers, Part Two
Publishers Notes: Holli Kenley is an American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “ Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving from Brokenness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children”