What to Do When a Friend Won’t Take Your Advice


Doctor Neha: Hi, everybody and welcome. So welcome, Haydee, and thank you so much for being a brave soul willing to ask your questions so other people can learn.

Haydee: Thank you.

Doctor Neha: Who’s your cutie pie?

Haydee: His name is Walter.

Doctor Neha: Oh, Walter, welcome. So what question does Walter have for us today?

Haydee: Oh my gosh. Well, do you want me to tell you my question or his question?

Doctor Neha: Well, you know, how some people go, “I’m asking for a friend.” I was just wondering if you might be asking for Walter. Let’s just ask, and it might be yours or Walters, we don’t know.

Haydee: Okay. What do you do when brand and you want to help these friends so much? And let’s say she is very hurt and keeps bringing up things in the past. And you totally help her with it and find a solution. You get to a solution, and she’s like, “Okay, I’m fine.” And then maybe a month later, she brings up the same issue again. And then you go, “We talked about this. We talked about what you were going to do.” And then she goes and relives it all over again. I think I just don’t know how else to help her because she seems trapped at that time. So what do I do? I don’t want to seem insensitive and say, “Well, we talked about this several times, and this is what we discussed.” I want her to know that I’m here for her, but it’s like she’s trapped and I don’t know how to help her to get out of…

Doctor Neha: It’s a cycle.

Haydee: Yes, it’s a vicious cycle. It’s not only one situation. It might be three things that keep coming up over and over, you’re her friend, the only one she can talk to, her only confidante.

Doctor Neha: All right, so first of all, that’s a tough situation because as a friend you really want to be there for her. You really want to care for her, and you also want to help solve the problem.

Haydee: Right.

Doctor Neha: You’re a doer. I mean you’re someone who really wants to get things done. And if there’s a complication or a problem, you want to solve it so we can all move on.

Haydee: Yes and yes. So she can be happy and stop suffering.

Doctor Neha: Okay. So can you give me an example of something that would keep coming up again and again?

Haydee: Well, let’s say there was a problem with the family. Maybe siblings would come up or friends. It could be friends. It could be a friend and they keep misunderstanding what she says and she keeps trying to explain herself. So we talk about it and she realizes, “Okay, I understand there’s nothing I can do about it.” And it keeps coming up even though she knows what she needs to do or she knows that situation will never change. But it’s so hard that it keeps coming up. What do I do to help her get past that?

Doctor Neha: Okay. So you have noble intentions. You really want to help your friend and you want her to make progress. Your friend is not where you are. Your friend is still stuck. So you’re doing something called the drama triangle. You’re trying to rescue your friend. In a triangle, there are three parts. There’s the persecutor, the person doing the thing that is “evil,” not evil, but you know what I mean—the person inflicting the wound. Then there is the victim—who this is being done to, [the person who says] “I’m being misunderstood.” “I’m misunderstood again.” And then there’s the rescuer, the person who comes in to try and save the day. All three of these people are in this triangle. So tell me which one of them is innocent.

Haydee: Well, I don’t know….You would think that the rescuer would be.

Doctor Neha: I know, you would think the rescuer would be.

Haydee: You know, like a wonder woman or superman that comes to be the hero

Doctor Neha: Or the “she-ro”

Haydee: I want to be the she-ro.

Doctor Neha: I know, this is really interesting. The thing you don’t like is every time your friend comes back to you, she or he is in pain. And you are trying to avoid feeling the pain in a repeated way and the idea of feeling stuck. “So I’m going to get out of this whole thing.”

First of all, I’m going to tell you nobody’s innocent in the drama triangle. It takes all three people to keep the cycle going. But let’s talk about something more important, which is your role in this. Tell me what it feels like to you and how accustomed you are to being stuck. Is that something you do well?

Haydee: Yeah, I do. For example, I am an analytical person. If I’m stuck, I will work on it until I figure it out.

Doctor Neha: Okay. Except then you’re not stuck anymore. I’m talking about being stuck. How well would you do if you couldn’t solve something? You couldn’t change it. How well would you do with that?

Haydee: I don’t do well being stuck.

Doctor Neha: So your friend who keeps coming to you is like stuck in a ditch. Same tire keeps blowing, same ditch, same pothole…It keeps happening. And in this experience, it brings up a lot of discomfort for you because to you being stuck is not what you do. What you do is solve problems, analyze, get people and yourself out of those situations.

Haydee: Right.

Doctor Neha: So this discomfort is not fun for you at all. So in fact, what you’re doing is you’re trying to rescue her over and over again. Except that’s not where the learning is. The learning actually is in you sitting in the discomfort with her and noticing what it feels like to be stuck. That would be a lot more uncomfortable for you than trying to solve her problem. Look, you keep trying to solve her problem and you’re just feeling the stuckness anyway.

Haydee: Right.

Doctor Neha: Do you feel it?

Haydee: Right.

Doctor Neha: Except you’re putting forth a lot of effort. So here’s what I would say. What if you trusted that your friend was exactly where she needs to be? She’s exactly where she needs to be. She is learning this lesson over and over and over again, because that’s where she needs to be right now, even though she’s complaining. I’m looking up something because I want to share it with you. So I’m going to give you something at the end that I hadn’t thought of before. Basically, your friend is stuck and your friend actually wants to be stuck. Not consciously, but she or he is not ready to move to being courageous enough to trust in himself or herself.

Haydee: Hmm.

Doctor Neha: So this person is in the school of life. This person is learning a lesson, but if you don’t get the lesson, you have to go back through the class and pay tuition again.

Haydee: Yeah.

Doctor Neha: Tuition in life school is paid in pain. It’s paid in energy suck. It’s paid in lost relationships. It’s paid in being stuck and not getting what you want. So until the moment where there’s a price. And then there’s a payoff. When the price of this is [lower] and the payoff is [higher], the price of staying stuck is okay. Right now there’s a payoff for her in staying in the same situation. It’s higher than the price. And the moment the price of staying in that situation goes higher than the payoff, that’s the moment this person will change. And not a moment before that.

Now what do you have to figure out is that you don’t have to figure this out. This is for this other person to figure out, which is what’s the payoff that this person is getting for not bringing this up, for not addressing this, for not becoming independent from this relationship? Or if this person feels low self-esteem and doesn’t feel okay, why are they not getting out? Because they’re getting something from staying. The reason I’m telling you that is because I want you to be empathic to this person. But it’s going to trigger in you the fact that you don’t like to be stuck. But your job is to trust that this person is getting the lessons that they’re supposed to get and they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be in life school, in the lessons of life. Is what I’m saying making any sense?

Haydee: Yes, it does. It makes sense. I understand.

Doctor Neha: There are two parts.

Haydee: Yes. I understand that my friends who are stuck have to go through life and learn whatever they’re going through. It keeps repeating and I cannot change them. No, I cannot rescue them.

Doctor Neha: But you try.

Haydee: But I’m trying. I’m painful. And I need to deal with myself. Love for them is not any more trying to get them unstuck, but to do something uncomfortable for me.

Doctor Neha: Right. And just be empathic to them.

Haydee: Just be empathic with them and stay with them.

Doctor Neha: I’m going to do it with you right now. Pretend I’m your friend and I’m coming to you and I have told you this a million times. I’m going to tell it to you again. “Haydee, you are not going to believe this. I had a great idea at the meeting. I had told someone about it. They took credit for the meeting, and I was sitting there, and they didn’t even say that it was my idea. This time it was Pat. Last time it was John. Everybody steals my ideas and then they act like they’re their own ideas.”

Okay, so your job is to listen to the words I’m saying and then drop below the words I’m saying and hear my emotions, name them, and then drop even lower and hear what I value. First of all, answer me if you were going to try and save me. How would you answer me?

Haydee: If I was starting to save you, I’d say, “You know what? You are a strong woman. You can do it. You can do this the next time and this is what you would do. Remember you can go back to that person and say, ‘I don’t like the way you are in meetings. It was my idea. I would appreciate if you did not take credit for what I do.’ Or in a more professional way, ‘I think you’re taking credit for my ideas or is that what you’re doing?’ But I would say something.

Doctor Neha: You would speak up. So what about this one: “I’m wondering why you’re telling other people your ideas. How come you’re not volunteering them in the meeting? Why are you giving away your power?” So what I would be wondering about this person is why they share their ideas with other people rather than having the courage in the meeting to present it as their own. So there’s a payoff and a price going on here. The payoff is this person doesn’t have to take a risk in front of the boss or in front of the room in case the idea isn’t received well. So what the person does is kind of staying behind the scenes doing this, planting these ideas. Then somebody else has the courage to bring up the idea. That’s a good idea. When it’s received well, this person feels like nobody gives any credit. So there’s a price and a payoff. And right now the payoff of hiding is higher than the price of risking and having self-trust. So that’s one part of it.

The second part of it, for you, is if I’ve come to you five times and said this to you, your job is to love me through being stuck. Your job is to say, “Hey Neha, that really sounds like it’s painful and it’s hard. And I hear how much you value innovation and ideas and fairness. And the person whose idea is getting credit.” That’s it.

It’s going to require you being empowered and trusting your friend, being empathic and listening deeply without needing to change it. It is going to require you to be okay sitting in stuck [mode]. That’s not what you do well. So what you want to notice is there’s always a learning. This one is an amazing learning because there’s not only learning for you with another person—in how to connect and keep your relationships so you don’t ruin your relationships—but there’s also a learning for you in allowing people to move at a different pace than you move. They’re just learning it. They’re in life school; they’re taking a class again. Sometimes you’ve got to take the class again.

Haydee: Right.

Doctor Neha: And that’s okay because that’s going to allow you to preserve your relationship with this person. So you get to decide, do you want to be right? Do you want to rescue them? Do you want to be exhausted and then be frustrated in the relationship? Or do you want to recognize, I’m playing the role of a rescuer because I think that’s productive and I’m avoiding the uncomfortable feeling for myself of being stuck. I want to know what Walter thinks of what we’ve just said. Were there any takeaways for you, Walter?

Haydee: He thinks you’re right.

Doctor Neha: I think Walter is voting for connection.

Haydee: I think he’s voting for loving the person no matter what. It’s unconditional their [dogs] love. They are the best example. Dogs would sit with you, even if you are in pain, they don’t judge you. They with you in your pain. And that’s basically what I’m learning from you and Walter.

I just need to sit through it and just being okay with being uncomfortable because that’s what she needs.

Doctor Neha: She just needs a friend.

Haydee: She needs someone to be there.

Doctor Neha: Yeah. Not to judge her. If you were honest about it, what are your judgments about people who are stuck?

Haydee: Well, you know, that they can get out of it, that they can do it. That they should not have put up with that, that they just need to be stronger.

Doctor Neha: So it’s questions like this: What lesson do you think is coming to you from this? What’s important about this? I hear how much you value fairness and how much you value unique ideas and getting credit and being appreciated for your own innovation.

Haydee: Right.

Doctor Neha: But you don’t have to change it. You don’t have to fix it. You hold the person as strong and capable and amazing. That’s your job. Then if that person says, “What’s your advice? How can I change it?” Then you say, “My thoughts on that are…” But when you start realizing that your advice to somebody else is what’s having you lose your connection to them, you have to start asking yourself if that’s what you really want.

Haydee: Well, thank you.

Doctor Neha: Thank you. You have such good questions and I just want to say thanks for bringing the special guest, Walter, on with us because how adorable that he was the lesson in the end—that unconditional love is the way to go.

For any of you out there who know that you’re working really hard to save a friend or a loved one, ask yourself if you have gotten accustomed to playing the role of rescuer. But then you get so upset with them when they don’t listen to your advice and then instead of becoming closer to them, you in fact start to become more distant from them. If that’s the case, it’s time to change how you do it. Unconditional love and listening on a deeper level just might get you back to the place and the relationship that you want and help you get unstuck. Thanks Haydee, I so appreciate your time, your energy, and your bravery.

So Haydee, I want to add one more thing that I just thought of that will kind bring this into perspective. It’s a poem by Portia Nelson called “An Autobiography in Five Chapters.”

Chapter one. I walked down the street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I’m lost. I’m hopeless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find my way out.

Chapter two, I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I cannot believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter three, I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. And I get out immediately.

Chapter four, I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter Five, I walked down another street.

This reminds me that all of us have those areas in our lives where we’re stuck. When we’re ready, we walk down another street. I would say that I have avoided romance and love for a very long time because I walked down the same street many times and it just feels like, “What am I going to be willing to do it differently?” And it feels like I’m starting to get ready to walk down another street. So there are patterns, there are different arenas in people’s lives where they walked down a different street the second time something happens. They don’t wait five chapters. Some people wait decades before they get the courage and they’re ready. But our job with each other as souls traveling this journey of life together is to walk beside each other. Some people in their job, they don’t do it, but in their love life, they do. Other people flip it. Whatever your friend is struggling with, maybe it’s family—we all have these potholes in different areas, but the question is “Can we walk beside someone and just love them through it?” So can we have another debut of Walter?

Haydee: He left.

Doctor Neha: All right. Walter is the symbol of unconditional love.

Haydee: He was thirsty. He went to get water.

Doctor Neha: I love that Walter listens to his body. Walter doesn’t wait for videos or what’s appropriate or politically correct. Walter listens to Walter’s body and then takes action. So beautiful. So for all of you out there who know, it’s frustrating to see somebody else stuck in their life, ask yourself, “What area of your life does it remind you of?”

Awareness Prescription
Questions to Save Rescuers

  1. Why do you want to rescue someone else? What would happen if you trusted that they were strong, resourceful and capable?

  2. How might rescuing the other person prevent them from facing the real issue?

  3. What is the difference between being a friend or a rescuer?

  4. What’s one area of your life where you feel stuck?

Doctor Neha


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