We all are guilty of giving unsolicited advice. Most often, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Unfortunately, instead of building relationships, giving advice when it’s not asked for tends to cause resistance. In offering help, we don’t stop to learn if the other person needs or wants assistance. In rushing in with our solution, it may seem to the other person that we are minimizing the problem. In ither case, the other person pulls away and an opportunity to truly be of help is gone.
What makes us think we always have an answer? We certainly don’t have solutions for all our problems. Often, the best help we can give someone is just to listen. Whether they want to vent their anger or release too many thoughts swirling in their heads, offering a solution cuts off their process. By short-circuiting what they were saying, you may very well have prevented them from finding their own solution. When someone is angry, fearful about a situation, or any other highly emotional state, they are not thinking cognitively. Through the process of expelling it all, reason has a chance to return. The thoughts stop swirling, and the rational mind deals with what has upset them.
When someone comes to you with a problem, you have an important role to play—without offering help. They needed someone with whom to share all of it, and they trusted you to be that person. By using your active listening skills, you help them while deepening the relationship. Instead of speaking, use your body language to show you are focused on what they are saying. Nod your head. Let your facial expression mirror supportive feelings. If there is a pause, you can restate something they just said to show you are listening – and to find out if you missed a point.
PsychCentral cautions “It’s Time to Stop Giving Unsolicited Advice“. The simplest way to do this is to ask if advice is wanted. You can try any of these questions suggested by PsychCentral:
Are you open to suggestions? This clears the path for your response. “Suggestions” is a better word than “advice.” The latter says you know more and can be taken as a criticism. The former is just some ideas you offer that can be taken or not.
I’ve been through something similar. Can I tell you about what worked for me? Without imposing, you are establishing a bond of a mutual experience. Recognize that means you will have to share that experience. That interchange puts the communication on an even more personal level. It evokes shared trust and leads to deepening the relationship.
Is there anything I can do to help? Be prepared for a no or a yes. It is a generous offer. If the other person takes you up on it, you are obligated to follow through. The commitment may take time and effort on your part. If no further help is required or requested, you have shown your willingness and concern.
If you find that you regularly give unsolicited advice, PsychCentral offers you some advice in the form of questions to ask yourself, including the following:
- Why do I want to offer advice right now?
- Is there something else that I can do that would be more helpful?
- Is there someone more qualified who could advise this person?
- Can I let them decide or figure this out on their own?
- What else can I do to reduce my anxiety or discomfort?
- Can I accept that my ideas aren’t the only good ideas?
- How can I be supportive without giving unsolicited advice?
- Can I focus on listening and understanding instead of fixing and instructing? Would this be supportive and respectful?
Unsolicited advice is a two-edged sword. You have only the best intentions when you are the one offering it, but that may not be how it’s received. Think about times when someone has offered you unsolicited advice By recognizing what receiving it feels like, you will be better able to restrain your impulse in the future. And if they are looking for advice, hear the other person out — completely—so you understand the situation before you give your response.
And that’s my advice to you. LOL 🙂