Thanks for asking such an interesting question. Other people can be tremendous resources when we are struggling with life situations and personal challenges. Every person has a different knowledge base, a different set of experiences and a different perspective. Many times these fresh viewpoints are very helpful and we want advice, but at other times advice can feel intrusive, especially if we are really just looking for information and a listening ear.
At some point, you have probably been in the position of having a woman friend come to you with a problem. You may have had ideas about how she can deal with her situation. She may be coming to you specifically asking for advice or she may just want someone who will listen to her vent and be sympathetic toward her situation.
It’s tricky sometimes to know when someone wants your input and when they don’t, and people aren’t always clear about what they want from you when they start sharing their personal or business problems. If you are unsure about what your friend is looking for, it is always best to ask.
As you point out in your question, people sometimes ask questions but aren’t really in a psychological or emotional place to hear the answers. It can be very frustrating to have a friend come to you for feedback or advice and then not listen, or completely ignore your valuable insights.
The person seeking the support may or may not be ready to listen to your ideas and answers. As the person responding to the request, you need to be aware that your input may or may not be heard and may or may not be acted upon. Offering an opinion is like giving a gift—it has to be given with no strings attached. Otherwise, you set yourself up for disappointment and frustration.
If you happen to be the person looking for support, try to be aware of whether you are seeking emotional support, practical feedback, or both. If you can, try to go to your friend or family member when you are truly in a receptive mood to hear what she or he has to say. You always have the choice to take the parts of what they offer that seem useful to you and let go of the rest. You may listen well and still not feel the advice is right for you. Be sure to remember to express gratitude to the other person for sharing their time and their ideas. One of the greatest ways to express gratitude is simply to listen and let your friend know that you are paying attention to what she is sharing with you, regardless of whether you are the “asker” or the “askee”.