Question: I am frequently approached by a person with a problem seeking my advice. While I am happy to offer counsel in an area in which I have some training or experience, the problem presented is sometimes of a nature beyond my ability to be anything more than a listener and I am tempted to excuse myself from serving in this capacity. What is the right thing to do?
Answer: First of all, don't reject the possibility of helping even in areas outside your expertise. Very often the person consulting you is faced with a choice between two or more courses of action and is unable to make a decision as to which he should follow. As an objective listener you may well be in a position to evaluate the choices and offer an opinion as to which is the most likely to succeed.
But even if you cannot offer any form of counsel, it is a great service on your part to just listen. "When one suffers from anxiety," say our Sages, "he should pour out his heart to someone else." The relief you provide for a worried party by simply listening to him is of great value and well justifies the time and patience you dedicate to being a sympathetic audience.