How many times has someone asked for your opinion? How many times have you thought “I know how to fix their problem!” But you don’t want to be nosy when they didn’t ask. How do you give someone advice in a helpful way?
Two Situations To Give Someone Advice
So let’s talk about two different situations that most people encounter. Someone asks you for advice, or you want to give someone advice that has not asked for it. Some of these suggestions can overlap for both scenarios so please realize that every situation is different. Each case may require you to approach it differently than the last one. Guidelines and lists on what to do and what not to do can only take you so far. You need to be able to analyze each situation and choose an approach.
How To Give Someone Advice When They Ask For It
So your best friend comes to you and asks for advice! You are excited! Yes! Finally, I can straighten her out so she stops making terrible choices! Wrong. I truly hope that is not the first thing that comes to your mind. Or, maybe you have been watching this person struggle for a long time and you are excited that they are finally acknowledging a problem or trying to change. So how do you actually help give your friend advice in a helpful positive manner that does not come across as mean?
Remember They Asked For Help
Have you ever needed to ask someone for advice when you were struggling? Of course, you have! None of us can make it through this life alone and without a support system. Asking for advice is healthy and normal. It’s good to see other people’s view on things and consider new suggestions.
But here’s the important part. Usually asking for advice makes people feel humble and vulnerable. Most people asking for advice are worried they will be judged. They are opening themselves up to you because it is the best course of action, but that does not mean it’s easy. Respect the fact that it takes courage to ask for advice. Try to open yourself up as well so that you feel on the same level during the conversation. This will help your friend be more accepting instead of defensive.
Ask Questions, Listen, and Think
Most people jump at the opportunity to give someone advice. That doesn’t mean you are an expert on THEIR situation, it just means they want to consider a different perspective.
I took my oldest daughter Caroline to urgent care one time because she was sick. She has a long history of getting a terrible cough that would last for a month or two at a time. She would act pretty normal and play, but the cough simply wouldn’t go away. The doctor at urgent care obviously was not her normal doctor. She didn’t know Caroline’s history, she didn’t have a patient chart. She came in the room said a quick “what’s going on today?” After giving me 30 seconds to speak she cut me off and prescribed an antibiotic. I am all for a good antibiotic to clear things up sometimes, however, the doctor didn’t even bother asking questions.
Symptoms Before The Diagnosis
You may actually be an expert on a certain topic, heck you may be a real psychologist! The point is, you are not an expert on that person. You need to ask questions. You need to know why they want advice, what they are looking for. You need to know the history and the symptoms before you can give a diagnosis. Come on people, go full Doc McStuffins on their butt. Listen for the love of all things.
There is nothing more frustrating than realizing you just wasted a lot of time listening to someone give you advice when it didn’t apply to your situation at all. You. Have. To. Listen. After you ask questions and listen to the person just pause and think for a minute. It’s better to be slow to respond then to talk and fill space with nothing of value.
Share Your Stories
In most situations, if you are sharing some personal experiences through a story, people will be receptive. Your friend will probably close herself off if she feels like she is being preached at. It also helps people to know that whatever they need help with isn’t something that has never been encountered before!
Be Honest About Your Knowledge
If someone asks you for advice be honest about what you know! If you are at a total loss then don’t babble on and give the wrong advice. Tell them “I have no idea!”
Let’s be clear, don’t just drop them like an empty candy wrapper. Offer some help and support. “I don’t honestly know what to do and I don’t want to give you bad advice.” Tell the truth, but offer to brainstorm solutions and ideas with them. Offer to help them find someone that might be an expert and have the knowledge to advise them well. Let them talk through their problem. Sometimes just talking about it will help people see things in a new light.
Support them without hurting them further by bluffing your way through it. Have a Google party and read some articles together. Write down any suggestions that sound possible and then narrow it down. They came to you! They want YOUR help! Even if you don’t know the answer, they wanted some support to help them figure it out.
Can You Give Someone Advice When They Didn’t Ask?
Yes! If you have ever had a kid, I promise you received more advice during those 9 months then you have in your entire life. People feel fine sharing unwanted advice all the time. It’s amazing how many people WITHOUT kids want to give you advice. But, how do you give someone advice they didn’t ask for without being “one of those people?”
Ask!!! Instead of just sharing your unwanted opinions, ask them. “Hey I actually went through something similar once and there were some things I wish someone had told me. Would you like some advice?” It’s okay to ask, but give them an excuse to say no. “How are you doing with this? I’m here if you want some help or support. But it’s okay if you need time to yourself.” Allow people to process, tell them it’s okay if they need some space from everyone’s opinions. Just let them know that you are there to help.
Ask Yourself Why You want To Share Your Advice
Are you wanting to help because you have the experience to share? Do you feel like you could help someone improve their situation with a new point of view? Or maybe, you want to build yourself up a bit because you are an expert. Maybe you are hoping that it will help you look good when they realize how smart you are.
Not going to beat this issue with a stick, but seriously take a moment and consider your reason for wanting to offer advice. Make sure your motives are not self-serving but out of genuine love and concern for another.
Who Are They To You?
Is this your sister we are talking about? Is this some random pregnant lady in line at the grocery store? Stop and consider if you have the type of relationship where offering advice is appropriate. Is someone new at work that could use some help? Still, ask them. Someone new at work and you are responsible for training them…well be nice about it, but you may need to knock some sense into their head since it’s your responsibility.
Just consider who your audience is and if it is appropriate or not. Maybe it’s your boss. Usually, I wouldn’t touch this situation. But, maybe your boss was having a bad day and shared some personal information on a problem they have. “Hey, that happened to me once! If you want some advice I can share some things that helped me, but also if you just need to vent about it I’m here to listen.” There are exceptions to any and all situations. Use common sense here people!
Offer Advice From An Expert
Again before continuing, I want you to consider who this person is to you and what kind of relationship you have. But sometimes it’s okay to share advice that helped you or someone you know. It seems simple but it can be effective and a way to give them the choice. Give them a book.
“Hey, I read this book and thought it might be something you would enjoy! I won’t be offended at all if you don’t want to read it, just thought you might enjoy it.” Just give it as a gift. If that feels inappropriate then offer to let them borrow it. “Hey I just finished this incredible book and it changed my life! If you ever want to borrow it let me know!”
Sometimes people will be more willing to listen to advice when it comes from an anonymous source with no added pressure. Maybe they are in denial about a problem. Maybe the fear of judgment has stopped them from opening up. Whatever the case, sometimes a book can help them receive the help they didn’t know they needed or didn’t know how to find help.
Not Your Responsibility!
Let’s be honest here. Someone at some point has given you advice. Maybe it was terrible advice. Maybe it was great advice. Whatever the case, you had to weigh that advice with your goals, morals, and ultimately own your own choice. Everyone has to make their own choice. Keep that in mind when you give someone advice. It is ultimately THEIR choice!
You can love someone and care for them and help them research ideas and solutions. But at the end of the day, they need to be able to make the choice that feels the best for them regardless of your opinion. Shocking I know. That point is you cannot get discouraged or feel offended because they did not take your advice. Their life is not your responsibility. Unless it’s your child under 18 years of age. But anyways, You are not responsible for the person you offered advice to. They are responsible for them.
Give Someone Advice And Move On
We all need help during our lives. We all usually have the drive to share things we have learned, out of love, so they don’t have as much trouble as you did. Someone asks you for advice, or you offer to give someone advice. We all need each other in this world. We all need support. There will always be another issue or problem too great.
Learning to become part of a support system, is one of the best things we can do for our own lives and the lives of people we care about. Give advice, take advice. Make decisions for you, and let others make their own choices guilt free as well. Love and support each other and maybe people will stop living in fear of not being perfect.