It can be very hard to give good advice to people who are under stress or are distressed. One of the trickiest aspects of advice giving is that advice can be more of a band-aid than a true solution to someone’s problem. Some situations warrant straightforward advice, while others require a more in-depth analysis of a person’s habits and patterns. First of all determine whether your advice is appropriate. When someone approaches you with a problem they are having, it is important to ascertain what they are really asking from you. Listen carefully and try to empathise with them. We often assume that people are asking for advice when all they really want is someone to hear them out for a few minutes.
When people are very emotional, they often are not ready for any feedback or advice so you may just listen to them patiently and try not give in to your natural problem solving instincts. Often, just helping someone organise the issue in their own mind helps lead them to their own solution.
After you have heard the person out, make sure they are clear on your style of advice. Let them know that you may have to say things they disagree with or that are hard to hear. If they appear to be open to your advice, move on. Diagnose the problem and try to articulate each option for solving it. Let them weigh these options on their own. Ask them what the best solution is. People often know what the best solution is, but it is often the least savoury choice. They may have omitted the most obvious solution most likely as it may be the most painful option.
People sometimes seek advice as a way to validate or invalidate the conclusion they have already come to; the only option they have is the least tasteful.
Once you have laid out the options, work with the person to really visualise what the natural consequences, tangible and emotional of each option are. They will see that there are positives and negatives to each option.
Ultimately, since you will not have to live with the consequences, you cannot make the decision for them. Offer them support in whatever decision they make and let them know that you will be there to discuss later on. We all need to be reminded sometimes that problems come and go and we survive. A truly good friend will be there for you through it all.
Your good advice may serve as a ray of hope in the darkness surrounding your friend and may change his life for the better. Facing life with a positive approach can do wonders.