I try not to drink coffee in the afternoon as well as in the morning, but this day I really needed a second cup. So I went to see my good friend Anna at our coffee counter. She seemed concerned; I seemed to be drinking a lot of coffee these days.
She proceeded to talk to me about vitamins. Maybe I should start taking fish cod oil? (She's Polish, and although her English is excellent – and far superior to my Polish – she still comes up with some funny inversions at times which make me smile).
I wasn't in my best state – after all, I needed the coffee badly. Apart from the fact that I am skeptical about the benefits of vitamins stripped from their natural state in food, I wasn't in the mood for advice. I wanted to shout: "Don't give me a lecture, give me the freakin' coffee!"
Nobody likes to be lectured. But we're all guilty of it.
I can't tell my friends enough times to go see my physiotherapist (see Why I Pity My Friends). If they live in London, I won't stand for talk about their aches and pains until they have seen her. (In fact, I made my poor mother go for an appointment with her when she was once in London and I may even do it again.)
I push self-help books. I opine on the merits of intuitive eating and why I'm sick of the fact that food is the new 'religion'.
It's all done in the name of trying to be helpful – wanting others to avoid the pain and pitfalls that I've suffered. After all, I've worked hard at figuring certain things out and have truly been helped by various things – be they self-help books, Bikram yoga or physio exercises.
And I often find it hard to keep my mouth shut when even in normal conversation things come up about which I have very strong views. But when to say something or offer advice – and when to stay silent?
The answer is simple. Have you been asked for your opinion? Because if not, it's best to pause and think about if advice is wanted. But what should you do? How to be there for a friend in need? Well, as the saying goes: be there. When a friend, or anyone, is talking to you about their life, be present. Listen. If they ask you for your opinion or advice, then feel free to give it, but otherwise they more than likely just want someone to listen and connect with them as a human being. The rest is really up to them.