Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Advice on how to give advice

If you've been pregnant and/or have kids, you know that advice, solicited or not, is plentiful. I've been offered some really good and some really awful advice in the past couple of years. And whether or not I heeded it had little to do with the validity of the wisdom. I found that the way in which it was presented to me had the greatest affect on whether or not it was followed.

I have never responded well to people telling me what to do. When someone comes to me and says, "You need to do X", I have to fight the urge to do the complete opposite just on general principle. Yes, it's very juvenile of me, but that's the way I am. So, if someone had come to me while I was pregnant and said something like, "You NEED to breastfeed your baby", I would have been tempted to formula feed just to prove them wrong. Luckily, I had already made my mind up that I would breastfeed long before I found out I was pregnant. The point is, telling someone what to do is out of line and will rarely elicit the desired response.

Another approach you can take is to tell people what has worked for you. An example: "Breastfeeding has been amazing for us. The health benefits are well worth it and it ended up being easier for us than bottle feeding!". In this scenario, no instructions have been given. You have simply shared with another mama your own experiences. You have opened up an opportunity to educate another individual. If she's interested, she can ask you questions. If not, she can just say, "Wow, I'm glad it was so good for you!".

Let's face it. If you're a cloth diapering, breastfeeding, babywearing mama, you're not swimming in the mainstream. As a result, you can expect lots of people to ask you questions. And you probably feel pretty passionately about these activities and would like to share the benefits with other mamas. I've found that when you approach people with respect and remember that you do not know everything, you'll get a much better response. No one likes condescension, but most people are open to learning from someone who's been there.

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