How to Give Advice you Don’t Take

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So one of the hardest parts of being in charge of a group of people is dealing with the inevitable personal conflicts that arise.  Harder for me as an INFP since we just want everyone to get along and play nice.  And we tend to see the good in everyone so it is hard to assign evil motives when it is one team member vs another.

It gets harder when someone is telling me about an interaction since I’m now just getting one side of it.  And, when they start going off on the tone that the other person used, then it becomes almost impossible to deal with.  When you read between the lines and start assuming a motive behind the words, then you are mind reading.  And how do you tell someone to watch their tone.  Especially when the other people tend to be more blunt and direct.  That’s just their natural style.

And then when someone starts in with “Well I would never speak that way” or “I would never treat someone that way” and you kind of have to tell them that the other people in the conflict may not even be aware that they offended them.  “Well how could they not?”  “Did you tell them?”  “Well, no, but they should just understand”.

This is where all my work on personality type can sometimes pay off.  Most of this type of conflict comes about because people are different.  We don’t all view the world the same way (thankfully) and sometimes it is hard to look beyond your way of viewing things.  And different doesn’t mean wrong.

I’d bet a lot of money that this person is an ISFJ.  In a couple of websites, I’ve seen this described as the “defender”.  The good side is someone who is very supportive and a universal helper and this is a person who one time walked a guy with flowers to a different building when he showed up at our building incorrectly.  They are the loyal, hard working types who tend to respect the rules and structure.  Steady and practical.  They aren’t likely to be the risk takers or rule breakers but more just the dedicated type who make sure things get done.

The downside is that they tend to take things too personally (so true). And they don’t like conflict and don’t like expressing their feelings so if you offend them, they are more likely to just retreat into themselves without you knowing what you really did.  But they are going to assume you know and be very upset.  The avoidance sometimes means they can’t stand up for themselves and can get pushed into doing something they don’t feel is right to keep the peace.  But then the inner perfectionist takes over and they get more upset at themselves for allowing themselves to be pushed around.

This is where we were.  One of the things about working for a big company is that we are all about training to avoid harassment and other bad things.  But the policies make it clear that you have to let someone know if they are doing or saying things that make you uncomfortable.  Again, you can’t assume that they just know they are doing something that makes you uncomfortable.

I ended up telling her that she really had three options.  One would be to continue to avoid the situation and hope it resolves.  Two would be to let me deal with it although she didn’t like that because then they would know she said something and it would be even worse.  Which left only the third option which was to find a way to stand her ground a little better.

I told her that it may take 100 times of speaking up for it to sink in.  But if you aren’t telling them that you are upset, then nothing will ever get fixed.  I also told her that there was nothing wrong with being a rule follower and that she really needed to just own who she was.  In this case, it was her study and if she wanted something done a certain way, then that was her call and she just needed to stand up for herself.

I accept the irony of this because I’ve had my own issues with taking comments way too personally.  Its still the right thing to say because there is this pithy little saying that you can’t control what people say about you but you can control how you react to it.  And there is a lot of wisdom in that little quote.  But taking it to heart and not letting something personally affect you is difficult for some of us.  I hate it when I have to give advice to someone that I really need to be taking as well.  Maybe it is just a life lesson.


  1. Oh, man, I feel that sting every time I’m talking to someone in 12 step fellowship who has come to me for suggestions. I’m so good at telling other people what to do, but I suck at following those same suggestions myself LOL

    1. Wonder if that makes it more authentic though because I can also tell them truthfully that I know how hard it can be to do what I’m telling them to do.

      1. I know that hearing that helps me when it comes to my 12 step recovery. Seriously, when my sponsor tells me what to do and then laughs when I call her wise, she always clarifies that she is laughing because it doesn’t feel wise when she can’t apply it to herself. It helps, my friend, it helps😙

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