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How to Keep Your Friend From Making a Big Mistake

You’ve heard the ad that says, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Let’s expand that principle to say, “True friends don’t let friends make a big mistake—of any kind.”

It might be that your friend is in a dating relationship that’s getting serious, even moving toward marriage, and you see sure signs of trouble. It could be a different life-altering decision that you’re convinced is misguided, with significant consequences. If you can relate, be a good friend and consider these steps:

Make sure you’re sure.

Start by carefully evaluating your own interpretation of the situation and motivation for speaking up. Sharing your opinion with a friend could be awkward and even result in hurt feelings. So think through your perspective and be open to the possibility that you’re not seeing the situation accurately.

Summon the courage to speak up.

The easiest thing to do is to say nothing. Lots of people choose not to bring up sensitive issues because they want to avoid conflict or sounding like a know-it-all. But staying silent while trouble looms would not be the loving and caring choice.

Ask permission to discuss the issue.

No one wants unsolicited advice, and your words won’t go over well if your friend thinks you’re butting in. By seeking permission to address something personal and sensitive, you will find the other person more receptive to your input.

Come prepared with specifics.

If you’re going to tell your friend your concerns, you’ll need to include particular reasons you’ve come to your conclusion. Think through precisely what is troubling you—and why—so you can communicate with clarity.

Be careful not to criticize.

Assure your friend that your desire is to be helpful and supportive. If you want your friend to be receptive to what you say, don’t come across as judgmental or critical.

Address the subject gently.

How your words are received has everything to do with how they’re delivered. Include lots of affirmation and assurances that you will always be an ally.

Help the person see the consequences.

We’ve all been too close to a situation to see it clearly. We get caught up in the moment and get blinded by emotions, losing sight of future consequences. This may be the case with your friend, and you can point out the likely results if a mistake is made.

Invite your friend to share her/his perspective.

Though you are approaching your partner with a concern, make sure to fully hear what the person has to say in return. When you hear out your friend, that person will be open to hearing you out, too. What’s more, when people verbalize their thoughts and feelings, they sometimes come to recognize the truth that they’ve been blind to before.