Practicing Presence And Sidestepping Unsolicited Advice in JoyPath Groups

This article delves into the complexities of interpersonal connections, underscoring the potential pitfalls of well-meaning but unsolicited advice. Although such advice is intended to be helpful, it can often lead to increased stress and negatively impact relationship dynamics. The discussion advocates for a practice of restraint and deep listening to promote the cultivation of presence and patience. The concept of seeking divine guidance through Immanuel Prayer is introduced as a way to enhance understanding and empathy within community settings. The value of spiritual insight in guiding interactions is emphasized, fostering a compassionate environment where individuals serve as gentle protectors. Recognizing the importance of creating space for each other’s vulnerabilities supports a culture of collective growth and divine companionship.

Deepening Interpersonal Interactions

Envision relationships where silence is more impactful than advice, and where the act of holding space for others can provide healing that surpasses what words can achieve. Delving into the nuances of interpersonal connections reveals a need for caution against the well-intentioned but often counterproductive offering of unsolicited advice. Such advice can inadvertently exacerbate stress and disturb relational dynamics. Therefore, there is a call for a practice of restraint and deep listening that encourages individuals to foster presence and patience and to seek guidance through Immanuel Prayer. Communal approaches that prioritize understanding and empathy allow spiritual insight to inform interactions.

The Heart Characteristics Behind Advice and Its Effects

Let us first acknowledge that the inclination to offer advice often comes from a place of kindness. It reflects our desire to connect, provide support, and care for the well-being of others. These intentions are noble, even if the act of giving advice may not always be the most effective method.

So, why should we refrain from giving advice?

Research indicates that unsolicited advice can trigger an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, disrupting our relational circuits (RCs) and our capacity for connection. In this heightened state of stress, we may find ourselves trapped in the amygdala’s fight, flight, freeze, or faint responses, making it nearly impossible to relate, grow, or view things differently while our brains are overwhelmed and our RCs are compromised.

From this perspective, giving advice can be perceived as an exercise of power over another, often placing the recipient in a defensive position. Offering advice might inadvertently imply that the other person’s capacity for insight or understanding is lacking because they have not considered what is being suggested. In our JoyPath group, maturity involves using our power wisely, presuming that each of us is doing our best in any given situation. By abstaining from giving unsolicited advice, we are exercising our power as gentle protectors and avoiding potential power struggles.

Practicing Presence

In our community of practice, we strive to be present with one another, to support each other through life’s challenges, and to resist the urge to dispense advice. Instead, we choose to hold space together. This patience and presence enhance our ability to listen to Jesus’s guidance. Although we may not always be physically present for one another, Immanuel is forever with us. We are learning to listen to the one who is always available to offer comfort. We are never truly alone. This practice also equips us to sit with discomfort, both our own and that of others, and to invite these feelings into conversation with Jesus.

Gentle Protectors: Using Our Power Maturely

When someone, driven by their desire to connect and support, offers advice, we can embody the spirit of a gentle protector, looking beyond the specific advice and focusing on the message of the heart being conveyed. Even if the advice does not align with our current needs, we can appreciate the good intentions behind the person giving it.

Alternatively, when we find ourselves on the verge of dispensing advice, we can practice self-awareness and vulnerability. We might express, “I feel an impulse to give advice, but it may be more beneficial to simply acknowledge and validate your experience.”

This approach solidifies the principles of maintaining relational connections (seeing people as more significant than problems), practicing mutual mindfulness, and cultivating a safe community where we can grow and mature together. These moments of restraint and redirection are not solely about avoiding unsolicited advice; they are opportunities to deepen our connections with each other and with Jesus.

Listening to Jesus Before Offering Advice

With the understanding that advice should not be given unsolicited, we should also remember that our brains sometimes seek examples or stories from others to help understand our situations and to shift and reframe our perspectives (Level 4 of the Brain). At times, we may look for facts and information to make more informed decisions (Level 5). Although we will explore these concepts further in the New Year, for now, in our practice, we should refrain from giving advice, even when asked, until we have taken time to listen to Jesus. Let’s discover together what He might reveal during our Immanuel Prayer sessions. After sharing what we heard during our listening prayer time, if advice is still sought, appropriate, and appreciated, we can share personal stories and examples. It is awe-inspiring to witness what God might disclose and how He might restore someone in ways we could never have imagined. The Great Physician accomplishes things beyond our grandest dreams or imaginations.

When we feel compelled to give advice, what actions can we take? How can we relinquish control, trust that others are doing their best with their lives, and engage in deep listening (perhaps revisiting the Imago Dialogue technique)? What would it be like to hold space for others without attempting to reshape their experiences?

I am profoundly grateful to work with such wonderful groups of people. Each individual is uniquely precious and brings their magical uniqueness into our communal space. I am thankful that God has interwoven our lives. In these spaces, I have observed how we synchronize with one another through attunement and attentive listening. Safe spaces are formed for one another to share vulnerabilities. I have witnessed a individuals that consistently appears as gentle protectors for each other. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Joanna Hughes, JoyPath Coaching Founder

Miller, W.R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change. 

Brown, B. (2018). Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. 

Porges, S.W. (2017). The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe.

Schwartz, R.C. (1995). Internal Family Systems Therapy. 

Scazzero, P. (2017). Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature.

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