Things to consider when you're offering advice to others
Advice on giving advice.
It feels great when someone approaches us for advice. It gives us a sense of pride, knowing that someone considers us to be both credible and experienced enough on something to impart our knowledge onto them.
Unfortunately, a lot of people who are approached for advice get so caught up in the excitement of being asked, they spout out a bunch of misinformation, often leading to unfavourable outcomes for both the advisee and the advisor.
To avoid some of these unfavourable outcomes, ensure you consider the following before you offer your advice to others:
Sometimes when people ask you for advice, they’re not looking for advice
Instead, they are looking for an opportunity to vent their frustrations.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with a person who wishes to vent their frustrations, the potential problem lies in your resentment towards this person when they inevitably fail to do what you’ve suggested.
To avoid this, when a friend approaches you for advice, respond by asking them: ‘would you like some suggestions on what to do, or do you just need me to lend an ear? Either way, I’m happy to help.’ When you do this, you’re able to listen and respond in a way that will be far more beneficial to this person than if you were to simply briefly listen and immediately propose a solution.
Everyone is different
You may have the best intentions with the advice you offer, but it may not be suitable for the person who is receiving it.
Let’s say, for example, you have a friend who asks for advice on how to approach a girl they like. Now, you’re a confident, self-assured man who never struggles to talk to women. I mean, this is half the reason your friend approached you for advice in the first place.
You tell him, ‘bro, walk right up to her, flirt with her a bit and ask for her number.’ While this sort of approach may come naturally to you, the very idea of it may terrify the hell out of your friend.
You need to empathise with your friend’s situation. If they’re shy and unassuming with women, you will have to propose a more gentle approach, suitable to their personality and way of being.
Before you offer advice to someone, you need to accept the fact that everyone is different. You need to be patient and understanding of their situation and look to formulate your advice based on what you feel will be effective for them.
If you feel that the person asking for your advice isn’t going to benefit from your suggestions, based on the fact that the two of you are far too different in your approaches to life, the best advice you can give them is to seek counsel elsewhere.
There’s a major difference between offering advice and being prescriptive
No matter your level of knowledge on a subject, you can’t force-feed your advice onto someone in a way that suggests that unless they follow it to a tee, that they’re doing it wrong or that you’ll resent them for it.
Advice is generally suggestion based, not demand based.
The more demanding the advice you offer, the less likely that person will be to approach you for advice in the future.
Ask some qualifying questions before you dive into it
When someone initially asks for your advice, it’s essential that you clarify the nature and reasons they seek advice, before diving straight into your suggestions.
Let’s say your friend wants some advice on how to become a better cook. Don’t go straight into ‘take a class, try these recipes and buy these utensils.’
Instead, you need to start be asking some exploratory questions. Here are some that could be used, based on the cooking example:
‘Why do you want to become a better cook?’
‘What sort of food are you interested in cooking?’
‘Do you wish to learn to cook for yourself, or do you have a dinner party coming up?’
‘How much time and effort are you willing to allocate each week in order to hone your skills?’
Once you understand the how, why, when and where components of a person’s request for advice, not only will your advice be far more insightful, but the person who is asking for it will also respect you and consider you more credible as a result.
Don’t offer someone advice on a topic you know precious little about
Some people love being the go-to-authority on every topic possible (even topics they know nothing about). The problem with this is that the more desperate they become in their pursuit of the title of ‘guru’ the further they stray from being perceived as this by others.
If you don’t know much about a topic someone has requested advice on, don’t be afraid to tell them. Also, if you’re able to, offer them alternative sources of knowledge on the subject.
Though you haven’t been able to help them this time, they’ll respect you a lot more than if you were to wing it.
They’ll also be far more likely to come back and trust you next time when they ask for advice on a topic you are more equipped to offer suggestions on.
Some people only learn by making mistakes
Some people who approach you for advice can’t be convinced of your perspective on the topic they’re asking for advice on. You can provide them with hundreds of stats, facts and real-life examples, yet they will remain adamant that their way of thinking is correct.
As long as it’s not a life or death situation, it’s ok. Sometimes you need to let these people make a mistake and learn from it.
If someone refuses to accept your advice, don’t flog a dead horse. Let them make the mistake of doing what they believe to be correct and learning from it themselves.
Bonus points if you can avoid the ‘I told you so’ chat after they make the mistake and tell you that you were right.
You can’t be a great advisor to others without learning to be patient, understanding, empathetic and forgiving.
Good luck out their Gents.