Tread Softly

July 6 , 2019 . By Tsion Fisseha

On a car ride with a friend, a conversation on the radio caught our attention. The radio hosts were talking about individuals who have lost their loved ones. They went on to explain how one can and should move on from the effects of devastating grief.

After a short while, a listener called the radio station and narrated the story of how he lost his wife of ten years and the mother of his children, and how after her death his whole world has shattered. Her death had left him unable to cope with the future.

Following the emotional testimony of the listener, one of the radio hosts started giving practical advice to move on from a dark place like this and ended the statement with: “Please, leave your number with us, and we will make sure to pass it on to a psychologist.”

Now I and my friend, who are at this moment hooked to the conversations, dropped both our jaws on hearing the last sentence.

At this point, my mind is going 120Km an hour trying to decipher the information that I just heard.

Human psychology is very delicate and fragile. It takes some knowledge to immerse oneself in the system in order to understand what goes on in the minds of those going through a tragedy, let alone advise on any predicament.

As a country, we have grown accustomed to interfering in the lives of others, usually without any consideration as to what kind of consequence that advice or interference might have. What is ironic is the famous saying that is used in the country. The saying roughly translated is “advice is easier for the one giving it.”

When one person gives a suggestion or consultation, he or she needs to be aware of the fact that there are professionally able personnel who are more capable of that platform.

When the radio host went on to explain the tricks to move on from a deceased partner, it is playing with fire. While the initiative is commendable, the steps taken to ensure the happiness of the audience could have an opposite effect. Will Rogers once said, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

One may explain the step he or she might take if they were put in that situation. But to go as far as giving the person advice, having had no psychological training, is unprofessional and dangerous.

These behaviours can also be noticed more often than not among peers and groups of friends.

This argument does not mean that you should not give advice at all. What it is pushing for is caution and careful study that should go into the advice-giving process, since the chances of the consequences lasting one’s lifetime are pretty high.

Stephen Fry, actor and journalist, while talking about depression, said, “Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness and loneliness they are going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It is hard to be a friend to someone who is depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do.”

The same can be said about giving advice. Life has many ups and downs, as many of the clichés go, and knowing that there is someone out there who cares and is willing to do absolutely anything to brush away the pain and sorrow is very comforting. But if not done delicately, these acts of kindness, which include giving suggestions and advice, can shatter one’s life as opposed to mending it.


PUBLISHED ON Jul 06,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1001]

Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at

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