Butt In Or Not Butt In – Part 2

iStockgirlfriendtalkingDo you want to offer advice or bring up a touchy relationship topic to someone you care about? If so, are you good at giving advice?

Everyone can use a little support - as long as it is done well. Here are some questions to ponder before you decide to help someone with some issue, challenge or problem.

1. How good are your boundaries and what is your agenda? Being honest (nobody's looking right now) - Are you a buttinski? Do you sometimes get carried away with other people's challenges and then feel compelled to try to fix them? Do you need to help? Do you see yourself as an expert who has all the answers? (If so - you will want to make sure that you are practice good stuff - including not being righteous and judgmental - before you try to help others.) That is not to say that if you are any of those things - you can't be helpful, however having good boundaries is the best ingredient in good helpfulness. So if you are genuine, have good boundaries and are truly concerned about your friend's happiness - I say give it a shot by asking permission first. In your own words, say something like: "Can I ask you about the other night?"

2. Do you understand relationships? Are you the type of person that understands that relationships - especially intimate ones - are never as simple as what we see from the outside? Are you making assumptions about what this one evening meant? Being TOO much on her side - is not really being on her side if this relationship is important to her. If you want to help - you need to go in with an open mind and appreciate that relationships have lots of pieces to them and that from the outside you will never really know what they are. Asking: "It looks like you two weren't getting along too well. What was up?" might be a good place to start.

Note: Where she takes it from there, and how good you are at playing the support role will determine what happens next.  This opening will likely give you one of three answers: A minimizer statement designed to shut the conversation down: "Oh - it was no big deal." A maximizer statement (be prepared for venting): "I am so sick of [insert name or put-down here]." Or a moderate response: "Yeah, we weren't really having a good night." So where do you take it from there? I recommend using the ETC approach: Empathize Then (not But) Challenge. "Couples fight sometimes. I was just concerned because you didn't seem to be happy with each other." Then shhhhh - and see where she wants to go from there.

If you bring optimism and maybe even some ideas - later on in the conversation - it can be a great gift."