Most of us have heard it before, be it through our religious teachings or through every day interactions with others:

“Do unto others as you would want done unto you.”

At first glance, this seems like a great mindset, and definitely something to make a part of our lives. But, what often happens is that we forget to consider the other person carefully. It’s about more than just what they’re going through, but it’s also about the person’s character, likes, and dislikes. For example, I am a person who benefits more from “positive reinforcement”, while the person I may be trying to motivate or encourage could be more inclined towards “negative reinforcement”. If the person gets a grade of 97% on an exam, he may need to hear, “Great job, but where’s the other 3%??” while I am the type to need to hear, “Great job! 97% is an awesome grade!”

Sounds like a pretty similar approach, but the difference comes through understanding what works for the person you’re talking to. When we try to help others, it’s important that we take out the time to make sure we understand the person and their specific needs, not only in what needs to be said or done, but in how action is taken as well.

In most cases where this quote comes into play, it’s a quick back and forth with a person, and we jump to give advice instead of taking a moment to withhold our tongues and to think of what we’re saying and whom we’re saying it to. In times like those, it’s important to always keep in mind that we are all different and all have our own daily struggles, so we must always tread lightly. You never know what a person might be going through.

Every situation is different, but there are some basic steps to start with when trying to help someone out or when giving advice. Check out these steps and use them the next time you’re in a position to help and treat people well:

1. Build a comfort zone

When you know a person, it’s easier to build a comfort zone using your past experiences with them, your relationship overall, and what you know makes them happy. For example, I have a friend who loves anime, so when advising him, I would ask him about a show he may have mentioned in the past and spoken passionately about. After creating a comfort zone, take the next step.

2. Ask the right questions

Once the comfort zone is there, it’s time to ask questions that help slowly bring out the concerns the person is having. Start with open-ended questions, and then work your way to the details. You’ll see that if the person is willing or wanting to talk, the details will slowly work their way into the discussion.

3. Maintenance and Reminders

The key when talking to someone and advising them is to maintain the comfort zone by letting them complete all of their thoughts and say whatever is on their minds, without interruption. In addition to that, reminders of being there for them and caring about them helps in helping them feel that they aren’t alone in their struggle and that they can pull through.

Keep in mind that these are simply guidelines. Ultimately, each case is different, as I mentioned earlier, but it’s always really important to keep the other person’s personality and needs in mind when giving advice. In fact, it’s important to remember to remember those things when interacting with anyone for any reason. Speak to others with kindness, listen, be patient, and speak the truth with wisdom and sincerity.