Imagine that something terrible has happened to someone in your life. Imagine that they’ve been hurt or they’ve had a bad experience.
What’s your first reaction? Are you going to make sure they’re alright? Are you going to try and make them feel better and help them get through the experience?
Or are you going to pull out a laundry list and go through the ways they should’ve done things differently?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who pick the second route. I understand why – there are times when you’ve advised your loved one not to do what they’ve done and there are times when all you’re trying to do is help them so that they don’t get in the same situation again.
You may think that you’re doing your best to help. And when they’re not particularly appreciative of that wisdom, you might feel offended or even rejected.
Here’s the thing: your loved one, whoever they are, they’re not an idiot. They know they’ve messed up. They know that they’ve made a bad choice or made a stupid mistake.
Reminding them in those first awful moments when they’ve come to you and admitted that something’s gone wrong, that doesn’t help.
It can feel condescending and suffocating. It can even make them feel ridiculously guilty which may very well make them want to lash out or just stop listening to you.
It’s never fun to go to someone looking for comfort and come back with a lecture that makes you feel bad.
I understand the urge to teach and lecture – or even shout and scold – but it’s not particularly helpful. In the initial stages of a bad experience, what people need is time and space to pull themselves back together. And if you want to be there for them, console. Don’t correct.