On the way to offering suggestions, it's a good idea to pause for a moment and confirm to the person you're trying to help that you actually heard them when they shared their troubles with you.
Nothing opens people's ears and minds so much as the feeling that their frustrations, their fears and their problems were really heard.
Or rather, I suppose it's maybe more accurate to say that nothing makes an alcoholic shut down faster than feeling like they haven't been heard and (more importantly) understood. You don't have to agree with what they've said, but if you want to offer real assistance, it helps to affirm that you were listening and that you "got it."
Otherwise, the very suggestions you want to offer, the very aid you're attempting to render, can seem more like an argument than an assist, emotionally speaking
(And if after you try to share what's going on with someone you walk away feeling a kind of low-grade frustration -- even if they offered good advice -- it might be that after you poured out what was troubling you that you didn't actually feel like they really heard you. Now, that may be a lack of perception on your part, not a failing on theirs -- what frustrated you is the more important thing to see -- it's a whole other question to consider as to whether your radio wasn't tuned to their signal, or they were broadcasting on the wrong frequency).
If someone says, "I'm unhappy" and the first response they get is, "have you tried a gratitude list?" it can seem like their feelings are being disregarded -- or disrespected. Even if they're the most selfish and entitled person on earth (and if you come to meetings long enough, well... you might meet them -- after all, none of us got to AA by singin' in church and giving out canned goods to the needy) you're better able to be of service if you communicate to them that they had their emotional "day in court."
This is just as valid when talking to a sponsee, even though in that case one has a sort of "blanket permission" to dive right in and make suggestions.
I learned this as I have most things, by making the mistake of not doing it, and feeling like I was somehow being drawn into arguments that didn't really need to take place, and also by being on the receiving end of same. I clearly remember some years ago feeling frustrated and unhappy after talking with some AA peeps and, though they had the best of intentions, getting peppered with "have you tried this?" and "why don't you try that" and worst of all, "you shouldn't feel that way... why don't you..." Aaargh! It felt more like a beat-me-down than a help-me-up.
Now, it's true, I probably shouldn't feel self pity for very long -- or resentment, or a host of other feelings which are pretty unhealthy for an alcoholic to dwell on -- but it's also true that there are no "wrong" feelings -- that is, I feel how I feel. AA has given me tools to deal with those feelings, but it does not free me from the human condition.
And on the way to getting help, what I needed then -- and sometimes need today -- hell, what we all need -- is the feeling that we're not alone. That the person we're sharing with hears us -- that other people understand how we feel. It doesn't have to be a big hour long commiseration -- just a sincere "yeah, that's hard" or "you're right, that sucks" can feel like a balm to hurting spirits
Then it's time to get out the spiritual first aid kit.