My Advice About Giving Advice

When people come to us to tell us their problems, very often, our first impulse is to give them advice. However, if we are not careful about the way we give advice, we might end up doing more harm than good. So, here’s my advice on how to give advice.

1. Don’t give advice if you’re not asked for it

Ok, I know I’m breaking this rule just by publishing this article. But bear with me.

Except for your very, very close friends, and you shouldn’t have more than two of those, don’t offer advice unless you’re asked to.

You see, many times, when people have a problem, they don’t want a solution. They want to be heard, or they want to be told how unlucky they are, or how they are being the victim in this situation, or they just need to vent. If you offer advice, they can take it as a sign of you not caring about their feelings or their problems.

The truth is that there are many people who don’t want to have their problems solved. They want praise, or validation, or agreement, or consolation, or something else, but not a solution.

So, resist the urge to come up with advice. You can just reply with phrases like “I see” or “I understand.” If you somehow know that the person is just looking for validation and you want to give it, you can say things like “poor you” or “how dare he/she!” although it’s not something I recommend but that’s me, and I even do it sometimes.

This chart is, like, totally scientific and stuff.

 

2. Acknowledge that you’re not an expert or that you don’t have all the information

If you are asked for advice, and you decide to give it, let the other person know that while you’re doing it all on good faith, you are not an expert in the subject and that you don’t have all the information about the situation in specific.

When people talk about their problems, they always re-tell the story emphasizing the information that makes them look good and downplaying the information that makes them look bad. So not only you don’t have all the information about the problem, but the information that you do have has already been filtered through the personal bias of the person (of course, you don’t point this out). However, by letting the other person know that your advice is coming from the information you have, then you shift the responsibility of the veracity of the information back to the person who is asking for advice.

Even if you are an expert in the subject, you should at least acknowledge that the information you have is limited at best.

3. If you aren’t able to give good advice, you shouldn’t

Even if the person asking you for advice is very close to you, if you feel that you don’t have any advice that’s valuable, it is perfectly acceptable to turn down their request for advice. No advice is better than bad advice. You can apologize and say something like “I’m sorry, I just don’t have any experience/insight about this kind of situations and I don’t know how to solve it.”

Or do it the Chandler way.

4. Make the other person responsible for taking your advice

This is the most important point. When you finish your advice, let the person know that he or she is responsible for what happens for taking your advice. I’m rather blunt in this regard. I say something like “This is my advice, however, if you decide to follow it, what happens is your responsibility, not mine.”

I find it better to have this conversation than to have the person come back to me later and tell me “now it’s worse than ever, and it’s all your fault because you told me to ________!”

Mimi and Eunice got it right.

5. Don’t be surprised if the other person didn’t follow your advice

Many times, after you’ve given your best advice, it turns out that the person who asked for it didn’t follow it.

Don’t be angry or resentful about this. You chose to give the advice, nobody forced you to give it. If the other person didn’t follow it, it’s his or her choice. After all, it’s not like you’re an expert in the subject or you had all the information you needed to give good advice, right?

And you know what happens when advice is given based on biased information.

Is the boss still out of the office? Then go and read my experience as “poor.”

When not busy mixing his whites with colors, Flippy works as a writer, translator, and language teacher. In his free time, he plays video games, takes photos, and writes funny stuff. You can find his humor book, Flippy’s Life Lessons Stuff Every Single Man Should Know, published by Relentlessly Creative Books on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017, Flippy. Published with the permission of the author.