Keep Your Advice to Yourself (Unless it’s Really Good)

I’ve recently found myself the recipient of unsolicited advice. It sounded something like this: “You know, you really should be doing…”

Unsolicited advice is generally ineffective because it assumes that the recipient doesn’t know what’s best for her or himself. And that they do not have the capacity to find their own answers.

It also assumes that the advice giver’s experiences are both relevant to the receiver, and that the conditions in which the recipient is in are comparable to those of the giver.

So here’s a little advice (assuming that you reading to this point implies a degree of openness to advice):

If you are the type who likes to give unsolicited advice, regardless of your intentions, resist the urge. Listen to others. Ask more than you tell. Get curious about how they might solve a problem or what actions they might take. Ask the receiver, “Would you like advice or would you just like me to listen?” And for goodness sake, only offer advice if it’s relevant, useful, ethical, and good.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of advice, take it with a grain of salt. Everyone has advice and most of it is bad, irrelevant, and ego-centered. Consider the context in which the advice giver’s experiences took place. Are these relevant to your situation? If not, point that out. Redirect the conversation. AND remain open. Some advice is good. Sift the wheat from the chaff.

This whole episode of receiving advice made me rethink the T.S. Eliot quotation in my email signature: “And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place.”


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