Advice, Please

When being a sounding board for a friend who needs to vent, how should one respond?

My normal reaction is to offer possible solutions, or other advice. What about when such is unwelcome?

Saying I’m sorry isn’t really appropriate, since their predicament is not the result of anything that I did or didn’t do.

Commiserating or expressing empathy by sharing a similar experience from my past takes the focus off of the person who needs to vent, and is therefore unhelpful.

One can only say I know or That sucks so many times.

Smiling and nodding via digital communication is impossible. Not responding could be taken as ignoring or not paying attention.

So, how does one be a good, useful listener, and no do or say something that may actually make the situation worse?

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4 Responses to Advice, Please

  1. Erin Palette says:

    As a rule of thumb:

    If friend is male, say “That sucks, dude,” and offer advice.

    If friend is female, say “How awful!” and make sympathetic noises while they talk. DO NOT OFFER ADVICE unless specifically asked “What should I do?”

    • alaskan454 says:

      Thanks. But let’s assume female, text conversation (rendering sympathetic noises impossible), and she keeps going on and on. What after the “How awful!”? I simply don’t know enough acceptable phrases.

      • Erin Palette says:

        How do you feel about emoticons?
        Frowny faces 😦 :[
        Not sure :/ 😕
        Hugs { }
        Love and/or sympathy ❤
        Happy Faces 🙂 😀
        Teasing 😛

      • alaskan454 says:

        Guess I need to take a crash course in them. That should work, or at least help for a while. Thank you.

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