Recently, a friend told me that women who stay in abusive relationships must “like it” or they would just leave. He couldn’t be more wrong.


When a friend or loved one confides in you that they’re being abused by an intimate partner, your gut instinct is probably to advise them to leave—sooner, rather than later. But most domestic violence experts would agree that this isn’t always the best idea.
Leaving an abusive partner can be complicated, tricky and often times, very dangerous. Sometimes a person may not feel ready to leave their partner—some part of them may believe there’s still hope for change. They may be in love. Quite oftenthey are trapped financially.
So, what’s the best way to give someone advice in a way that will be heard? Domestic Shelters consulted businessman, public speaker and professional advice-giver, Jeremey Donovan, author of “How to Deliver a TED Talk.”
Domestic Shelters: Whether it’s about leaving an abusive partner or something else entirely, what’s the best way to give someone advice without alienating them?
Donovan: “It may sound a little obvious, but listening is the best way to give somebody advice. I strive to understand not only the direct question being asked, but also the subtext of what the person is really thinking about. Then, before I give any advice, I ask myself whether I am qualified to do so.
You can be qualified in one of two ways: First, you might have successfully navigated through the situation the person is asking about. Or, even if you have not been through it, you have studied the topic deeply and guided other people through.
“If you are not qualified, then the best gift you can give somebody is to refer them to someone who is. If you are qualified, then upgrade the Golden Rule to the Platinum Rule. Rather than ‘advise unto others as you would have them advise unto you,’ you should ‘advise unto others as they would have advised unto themselves.’ The subtle but important difference is that the best advice considers their circumstances and needs, not yours.
“Often, people just need a sounding board since they are ‘out-loud’ thinkers. I’m that way. I like to have a partner who is mostly in listen mode when I’m working through an issue.”
Jeremy Donovan has made excellent points. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please LISTEN to them. Crisis Services has trained advocates to assist victims of abuse (at no cost) and help them develop a safety plan. Call 256.574.5826 or the Crisis HELPline 24/7 at 256.716.1000.

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