To consider whether your helping is excessive, first ask yourself how important it is for you to feel needed or looked up to. If you do feel the desire to be helpful, which is not the worst motivation in the world, pay particular attention to your motivations, actions and words.
The way to make sure your help or advice does not cross any boundaries is to make sure that you would not mind if the third person involved could overhear your conversation. Think of social media. Despite your privacy settings, it is best if you only post things that you don’t mind everyone seeing or hearing.
Discretion involves the same principles. As few things remain secret in life, there is not much room for gossip, dramatization, or being snide. So assume that the third person is listening in to what you are saying, and if that scenario does not give you pause then your intervention may be truly helpful.
When you notice someone has ignored good advice in the past, it may be that that person will only learn through further mistakes. Sometimes giving continual direction or advice simply enables inaccountability and codependency. A little advice is OK – but learn to recognize when it is enough. We want to make sure we are not preventing others from taking ownership of and resolving their own problems.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD