What’s the deal with unsolicited advice? We often resent it when someone tries to tell us how to clean our house or parent our children, but we can’t resist chiming in when our spouse is driving or a co-worker is writing a report.
Then again, we each have wisdom and experiences to share that could help others. Solve the dilemma of when to speak up and when to hold back with these tips for taking and giving advice.
Tips for Giving Advice
1. Switch to modeling. Setting a good example exerts more influence than anything you can say. If you want your children to be kind and responsible, demonstrating those qualities yourself is more powerful than a lecture.
2. Clarify your purpose. When you do need to give advice, start by checking your intentions. Are you trying to help others or control them? They’ll usually notice.
3. Consider the urgency. Of course, there are times when someone’s well-being outweighs any concerns about interfering. Warn tourists about walking in dangerous neighborhoods, but mind your own business if they want to buy overpriced souvenirs.
4. Provide notice. Advice is easier to take when we know that it’s coming. Ask someone if they want feedback.
5. Speak tactfully. While there are popular books addressed to dummies and idiots, that approach will probably backfire for you. Make it clear that you’re just stating your opinion or offering an alternative option.
6. Work on your timing. Effective advice comes in small doses. Give others time to process your message before piling on more.
7. Skip the obvious. Advice needs to be useful. Assume that others realize they’re overweight or wish they bought stock in Chipotle years ago.
8. Offer praise. We often want validation rather than guidance. Congratulate a friend who just sold her first painting, instead of trying to determine whether she made enough to cover her expenses for art lessons, supplies, and studio space.
9. Broadcast your message. Maybe you’re a new parent or gourmet chef brimming over with valuable tips, but your co-workers care more about finances or sports. Write a blog or lead a workshop to reach an audience interested in what you have to say.
10. Look within. Remember to fulfill your own needs while you’re reaching out to others. Developing your own potential gives you more to contribute.
Tips for Receiving Advice
1. Reassure others. Your boss may give you detailed instructions because of their own insecurities rather than any doubts about your abilities. Letting them know that you respect their accomplishments could make it easier for them to give you more room to complete tasks your way.
2. Set boundaries. It’s okay to discourage unwanted comments when you’re dealing with a challenging situation. If someone urges you to try a different cancer treatment, let them know you and your doctor are handling the situation and you’d rather discuss something else.
3. Keep it brief. How often do you change religions because someone hands you a nifty pamphlet? Thank others for trying to be helpful and avoid conversations that probably won’t pay off.
4. Be selective. On the other hand, listen with an open mind to feedback that sounds reasonable. Once you understand the information, you can decide if it’s relevant for you.
5. Acknowledge your freedom. Unsolicited advice tends to disturb us because we think it challenges our autonomy. Keep in mind that you have the power to choose your actions regardless of what you hear.
Unsolicited advice is tricky. Examine your motives before you make recommendations, and remember you’re in charge of your destiny even when others may try to change your behavior or beliefs.