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Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Etiquette of BUTTING IN

BY SALMA SANWARI

Friends give each other advice on almost everything—what to wear, what to do and even what to say. But how do you give unsolicited advice, advice to someone who did not really ask for it? Imagine your friend headed for trouble because of a bad habit or a bad decision. What if she decided that she found the right guy to marry, even though her parents disapproved of him? Or what if a friend has started to try drugs or alcohol? How do you intervene without being intrusive? And how do you approach your friend without feeling like you are "butting" into someone else's business?

The reality is that it is your duty to butt in when you sense that someone is in danger physically, emotionally or spiritually. However, the fact remains that there is a certain degree of tact and etiquette that we should use when giving advice, especially if the situation is sensitive. Let us take, for example, the friend that wants to marry a guy who is not the best choice for her. If there is something that you know that could significantly affect her decision, you should let your friend know what you know. The value of giving sincere advice ranks high among Islamic morals, surely, but it also ranks high when it comes to true friendship and camaraderie. No true friend would give someone advice that is insincere or misleading.

Similarly, no true friend should refrain from giving advice to someone in need. Some friends might be afraid to give advice, especially when the know that the advice will not be received happily. But, if you think about, that is probably the advice that is most essential. You may already know that your friend will not like what you have to say, but consider it your duty to speak your mind. And then make sure that you are there to collect the pieces. No one appreciates a busy body that gives advice and then turns the other way. A true friend will give advice, and then ride it out with the other person --- see the decision come to fruition, if you will.

Contrary to what some might believe, giving good advice is not intrusive, as long as it is offered with sincerity, care, and purpose. Advice should be given carefully and with concern for the recipient's well being; anything less is not good advice. We should heed the feelings of the other person when we give our opinions about their life. Think it out before you spit it out. Taking a moment to think about how to phrase the advise is a good idea. Often times, the reason a bit of advice is rejected is simply because of its delivery. A lack of tact turns even the most sincere of opinions sour. A great way of following advice etiquette is to think about how you would feel as the recipient to your own advice. This should help you better articular your advice and better anticipate your friend's reaction.

As you anticipate your friend's reaction to your advice, imagine your own reaction to this same advice, as if it were coming from your friend to you. Giving advice requires not only decorum and good intentions, but also understanding and genuine concern. If you are a diplomatic friend and can comprehend the ramifications of your advice, you will be that much more prepared and equipped to offer the advice in the best possible way, to achieve the best results.

The best advice-giver is also one who can receive it. For many, giving advice is easier than taking it. Let that not be the case. If you want your friends to accept your advice as genuine, then you must also be prepared to accept advice from others. Much of the tact required in giving advice is also required in receiving it. As a friend who is receiving advice, you should be open-minded and receptive. Hear out the advice before you bark at your friend to mind his own business. Realize that your friends have a different vantage point. They can see things in a different light and can offer advice that you might not have considered. Talk it out rather than getting offended or upset.

True friends will offer each other sincere advice, so have faith in your friendship and trust that your friend is advising in you in your best interest. It is easy to get annoyed at someone, even a friend, for 'butting in', but if you reconsider the situation and realize that involvement is not necessarily intrusion you can accept advice wholeheartedly.

(Courtesy: Jumuah Magazine)


O Allah! Guide us, make our intentions sincere, accept our deeds, answer our prayers, and make us of those who are patient.

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