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Navigating Support, Advice, Opinion and Knowledge Sharing: What's the Deal?

This is a topic which recently helped things fall into place for me and I figured it may be helpful to share.

Over the past few years, I have taken on additional training: as a breastfeeding peer supporter, a doula and a Calm Family consultant, and the skills I learnt by doing these trainings really taught me to examine my approach to speaking to people, whether it be in an online capacity, on the 'phone, written word or in real life. Of course I did a huge amount of work on this in University, but there is nothing wrong with a refresher - and having been practising now for 15 years it was well needed and appreciated.

These trainings also helped me to read between the lines and see what was being asked of me; does someone want my personal opinion? Do they want me to tell them what to do? Or do they want to be given the information to empower them to make their own decision?

Often it is the latter - though there is the odd occasion a friend will beg 'just tell me what to do' as we all do at times, we are only human!

And that is what I strive for in all of my communications - to pass on the information to allow the individual to make their own decision, no matter in what capacity I am being asked

1) Knowledge Sharing

This sounds fairly simple. Passing on information, usually evidence based (it may even be an article or some research). This can be presented with a bias of course, but I do try and use reputable and unbiased sources so that you are getting the information and not...

2) Opinion

This is what 'I think....'

Helpful if you want to know what someone else might do in the situation but not necessarily evidence based OR indeed what is best for you and yours

3) Advice

Giving a direct instruction or a 'solution' to a problem

4) Support

Listening. Being there. Hand holding and saying 'you can count on me' no matter what decision is being made, how you feel about it and whether you'd do it. Support is totally devoid of any ego and can be given without trying to fix, impart knowledge or give an opinion. Support is what is lacking in many peoples lives!

I saw not too long ago, someone saying that all new parents ask for advice but don't take it: but is that really the case, are they really asking for advice or do they want support? I'd hasten a guess that often new parents want support and not advice...

And I pride myself in being able to help my patients and clients find their voice and feel totally empowered - part of this is supporting them and sharing information so that they are able to make an informed decision. Of course, there is also the fact that most people who see me (herbally in particular) also need my expert advice...but NOT my opinion! My opinion on things does not affect my professional support and guidance, something which I think is super important in all aspects of my work.

So... if someone is grumbling to you or offloading something, check yourself and just wonder whether they want you to fix everything - or just support them through their tricky moment. Not everything needs fixing, sometimes we just need to be heard.

Jo xxx

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