How to Give Advice

Young man sitting on a couch with his hand on his forehead in a therapy session - How to give advice - ILYNSI Yoga

Do you often find yourself the one person amongst your circle offering advice? How does that typically turn out for you? Do you find your friends to be receptive or adverse to it?

I have always found advice to be very tricky. Although it comes with good intentions it can often lead to further disagreements. Below are my top recommendations for how to give advice without it leading to hostility and tension between you and the person asking for help.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

Anyone asking for advice is in a very vulnerable position as they are trying to resolve a difficult situation. They may be coming to you for many reasons but one of the most important reasons is that they are looking for validation. I believe that people often already know the answers to the questions they are struggling with. However, we often ask for advice because we have not developed the abilities to trust ourselves. Also consider how difficult it is for some people to even ask for advice. Many of us are very prideful and don’t want others to see us when were are struggling. Especially in today’s world of social media and comparison, nobody wants to feel like they a falling behind their peers.

In this case, be compassionate and receptive to their needs. Consider what it would be like if you were the one in need and how you would like to be treated. Be attentive, kind with your words, and thoughtful with your delivery.

Let The Person Do All The Talking

Letting the person do all the talking allows them to resolve any of the issues they are experiencing themselves. You can help by brainstorming through the problem and asking specific questions about what led them to this experience, how they feel about it, and what they think they could have done differently.

Another thing to consider when giving advice is that the person may not really be asking for it in the first place. Perhaps they just need to hear how the story sounds out loud as well as see the reaction they are getting from others before following through with a  decision they have already made. You may be thinking back to a time when you gave someone thoughtful advice but they totally disregarded it and did something else. It’s most likely because they never wanted the advice to begin with, they just wanted someone to talk to.

Only Offer Advice When Asked

There is nothing more annoying than unsolicited advice. Unless a person specifically asks you for your opinion on a particular matter, don’t tell them what to do. Again, most people just want to be heard and yes, people want to be guided in the right direction but not in a forceful way.

Also, consider why you feel the need to offer advice. Like many of us, I have been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice and it made me feel terrible. To me, giving advice to someone is an honor not an opportunity to assert intelligence, be condescending, or satisfy your ego. The advice you give them may not be something they wanted to hear and the reality is you probably do not know the full struggle.  

Empower Them to Make Their Own Decisions

When offering advice, use words of encouragement and positive language that will empower them to make the right decisions. In doing so, you will establish a sense of trust and comfort with the person seeking advice. They will be more likely to open up to you about their struggles.  

In order to do so effectively, avoid using judgmental language and speak objectively. Don’t use words like “you should,” “how could you,” or “I would never do that.” This is hurtful language. You are better off using language like “it sounds like,” “if it were me, I would try…” or “what can we do to make this situation better?”  This language helps to create a safe space for the person to open up and feel more comfortable with making a decision. 

Follow Through

If you really want to be helpful, follow through with a plan to see your friend come out on the other side. Don’t just dump your advice on people and expect them to follow it. Consider this as more of a partnership in helping someone achieve a goal to come out of a struggle. Ask them how they are doing and if there is anything you can do to help. You could recommend books, therapy, or a getaway. Connect them to the resources that might be helpful to them in their particular situation. For example, if your friend is looking for a job, you may be able to offer going over their resume, connecting them to a recruiter, or sending relevant job postings. 

Don’t Offer Advice If You Can’t Be Helpful

This is one of the most important things to consider when giving advice. A person who is in need of validation and compassion is coming to you for help so it’s best to think about whether you are the right person to offer that help. If not, don’t fake it. There is no need to give someone a false sense of security when in reality they cannot rely on you to support them in their time of need. Better to let them know that you do not have experience with that issue and if you come across any supportive information you will pass it along.

Overall, offering advice to someone is a delicate task. It is important to be mindful of yourself and others when communicating your opinions.

What have been your experiences with offering or receiving advice? Share your stories and any tips below.

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