Tag Archives: family members


By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Give help rather than advice Luc de Vauvenargues

Are you aware of your God-given gift? We all have it.  We all have the ability to tell other people how to live their lives. Some people offer this advice freely, whether welcomed or not.

What’s amazing is that often the very people we are freely advising are not necessarily open and ready to hear all we have to offer. Some people are actually insulted and annoyed by our generous sharing.

If everyone could learn that what is right for me does not make it right for everyone else, the world would be a much happier place — William Glasser, MD

To test out this idea, think back in your own life, maybe only as far as the beginning of this day. Who has given you unsolicited advice? Did it help? Did it hurt? Were you insulted? Were you enlightened?


The reality is that no one knows all that is involved in what is happening in your life circumstance as well as you. When someone offers unsolicited advice, usually meant with the best of intentions, the advice is all wrong. As a result you may be no better off and you feel worse about yourself, the problem, or your relationship with this person.  Ugh!

Why do people offer this advice? Certainly their intention is not to detract from your Mental Health & Happiness. However, most people, especially friends, colleagues and family members, want to help solve our problems and help us feel happier. Unsolicited advice is often offered to help contribute to other people’s Mental Health & Happiness in a positive way. Instead this too often is a mistake, detractor and at best a nuisance.

Here are some ideas (dare I say advice) that you might find useful:

  1. The next time a person is complaining, sharing, or moaning about a problem or overwhelming circumstance ask what you can do to help? As the above quote reminds us, offering help instead of advice is almost always welcomed. Amazingly the person may frequently tell you that when you simply listen that is all the help they need!
  2. If you have such fabulous and perfect advice that you simply cannot resist sharing, ask permission to share first. “I have an idea that I think will help. Would you like to hear it?” If the person politely declines, go to the bathroom or the closest mirror. Now tell this great idea to the person looking back at you in the mirror. Do not share it with the person who declined your offer!
  3. If you discover that you seem to be a frequent recipient of other people’s unsolicited advice, start self-evaluating? Are you voicing frequent complaints such that others might perceive that you are asking for help? Are you clearly stating what you want; someone to listen attentively without offering advice?

The simple practice to improve Mental Health & Happiness is to offer help rather than advice. Please know that this advice was offered in the spirit of helping.

Why can’t we just get along?

By Dr. Nancy Buck

There may not be anything more painful than being a member of a family that squabbles, bickers, and argues. Is this what your family is like? Is this what the family you grew up in was like? If it is then you know how tense, anxious and sad you felt or feel now. Anticipating family reunions whether that is for holiday gatherings or just a daily occurrence, is not need fulfilling at all!

Your sense of isolation may be intense, even though you are present. You know you belong, but you wish you didn’t. Are these the people to help you feel proud and good about yourself and your family?

You may feel powerless to change these unhappy relationships between family members. And you feel angry and frustrated because you can’t.

Being in this family is not fun, not filled with joy, wonder or awe except maybe in the negative. Perhaps you are able to feel free, by choosing to spend less and less time with these people. But if you are a child, there is not escape. There is not sense of safety and security either.

You are not doomed, without any hope for mental health and happiness. You can change your mental health habits leading to improved happiness even in this kind of a family. It is hard and it is impossible.

Here’s how you can change yourself, the only person in the situation that you can control. Start practicing the connecting habits that improve relationships:

  • Listen
  • Respect
  • Accept
  • Encourage
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Negotiate Differences

You may choose to practice these habits with family members, or with other people in your life outside of your family. Finding and practicing connecting habits will help you improve your ability to meet your need for love and belonging. Making strong, caring relationships with at least one other person is essential for mental health and happiness. These skills will help you move in that direction.

Stop practicing the disconnecting habits:

  • Criticize
  • Blame
  • Complain
  • Nag
  • Threaten
  • Punish
  • Bribe or reward

This is not going to be easy. It is difficult when you and other members of your family are practicing all of the disconnecting habits. You have all gotten into a rut, a habit of disconnecting.

But you can change. It might help if you remove yourself from the loud shouting matches until they have passed then try and connect again. Choose one of the connecting habits and practice. Make a list of all of the things you can say and do that are consistent with supporting, for example. Then practice. The more you practice, the more you will be able to stop the disconnecting behavior and choose a connecting behavior. You are developing a new skill, a new habit.

You will not immediately feel happier or better about spending time with your tension filled family. But you may start feeling happier and better about how you interact with your family members. In so doing you may be better able to meet your basic needs, be mentally healthier and happier.

It’s worth a try.