What We Forget When Giving Advice

Three girls sitting together.

We all know someone who is in need of a little advice, and maybe even yourself.

The issue that comes with offering advice is that it’s easy to be perceived as a know-it-all and that has led many to be consumed by their own ego. In time, that will affect the way advice is given. In my case, I become more and more condescending as my ego is trying to take over my mind. And when that happens, nobody is going to listen.

When you have a friend, who is in a tough spot, it’s good to want to provide with some insight to help them out. But it’s not an easy conversation to have, especially when you think to know all the complicated circumstances of their situation that made you realise how little you actually know.

So, to not make the same mistake again, here are three important self-check questions to ask yourself:

 

Is Your Advice Wanted?

Clearly, not everyone is looking for advice. Before you go offering your point of view, make sure they’re interested in hearing it, because no type of advice is worse than unwanted advice. Oftentimes, people aren’t looking for advice from anyone to solve their problem.

Sometimes, it’s best to stay quiet and be more of a listening ear. Once you commit to listening rather than talking, there will be less burden on you to say something wise. And most importantly, your friend or family will feel heard.

Other times, it’s best to let the moment pass, give yourself some time to think and then return with well-planned words. We can all relate to the following: How many of us did not take our parents’ advice because we weren’t ready to hear it? Only to realize later that those same parents magically acquired intelligence and the advice they gave us years ago was spot-on.

Another way to go around is, instead of giving well-planned words, ask them questions, so they go through the process of finding their own solutions. If it’s getting clear that the person doesn’t have a clear solution or practice, then that’s your chance to ask if they would like to hear your input on their problem. If they don’t want your input, then continue to listen actively and just be there. Sometimes it’s better for them to let out some steam and solve it on their own.

 

Are You Honest About What You Know And Don’t Know?

“Don’t give someone advice when you don’t have the proper experience yourself,” is the most used argument when giving advice. Understandable, because pretending like you know something you don’t and acting as you’ve been in a situation you haven’t been will only harm yourself and others on the long-run. Remember, you can only fool some people for some time.

But then again, do you really need personal experience to give great advice? You might be better off without it because one danger of giving advice is projecting your own experiences. You might have been there, but you haven’t been through that precise same situation. Try to recall the most difficult situation that you’ve been in and you might find out exactly how different the situation is.

What I’m trying to point out is: Don’t worry too much about offering your view to your friend just because you haven’t experienced the exact problem. Your friend will appreciate your view even more if you’re approaching a situation with new perspectives.

What it all comes down to is being honest and let your friend know that you are not familiar with his or her situation and that you want to shed some light unto this problem based on what you have heard so far. Offer guidance in a way that’s truly helpful, which is to advise the person about the decision at hand. Explain what you know about their options, offer a recommendation if you see fit, then let them use that information to make a sound decision.

Reeshad Dalal, a psychologist at George Mason University in Fairfax who studies effective decisions and advice, says: “While you may have greater expertise on the topic as a whole, the decision-maker may have greater expertise about the specific decision to be made.”

 

Are You Making Sure It’s About Them?

I’m sure you know someone, or maybe even yourself, getting all upset because the given advice was never used (I know I have). It’s understandable since you took the time and effort to give your friend advice. However, this doesn’t mean he or she is obligated to use it and most certainly it doesn’t mean you are entitled to any gratitude in return.

The thing is, they may not agree with your advice or recommendations. They have no responsibility to use it and that’s perfectly fine. As hard as this may sound, they owe you nothing. You can’t tell people what to do, but the good part is that you can help them get there. It’s not a simple task to understand and be empathetic – to imagine the place where others are stuck in and how they are feeling.

Sadly, many of us have the tendency to project our own issues and successes onto others even when it’s not needed. When someone is facing a dilemma, they need self-confidence to trust their intuition and make an informed decision. In addition, it helps to offer emotional support next to giving advice.

So, if a friend comes to you for advice, let them know that you’re here to help but you trust them to make an intelligent decision. Believe me, your confidence may be all the advice they need to overcome any adversity.

Of course, this is still an advice, so I leave it up to you whether to use it or not.

 

Best Advice

Please keep in mind what might work with one friend might not work with another. Use your good judgment. Eventually, you want your advice to strengthen your friend and give them more confidence in their own judgment in the future.

The best advice I was ever given throughout my life was to ask better questions and to listen closely. This is such an important skill that can contribute to many life situations and promote a deeper understanding of friends, family, and even people you meet in the business.

Originally published at ye-chen.com.

  • How do you usually give advice?
  • Do you have any advice for me?
  • What was best ever given advice?

Have your say in the comment section 🙂

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