Tips on Unsolicited Advice

I have one really important tip about unsolicited advice, don’t give it.  Unless you are in a company setting and are managing someone else, or have some sort of responsibility over someone (parent, tutor, teacher), there is no reason why you should be giving any sort of unsolicited advice.

To offer a man unsolicited advice is to presume that he doesn’t know what to do or that he can’t do it on his own.
– John Gray

How many times have you seen someone brighten up and feel better after they receive advice they didn’t think they needed in the first place?  The answer might not be never, but quite closely.  Now think about the number of times you have seen someone get upset because of such ‘helpful advice’ they didn’t want to hear.  I’m sure the number is far greater.

The reason unsolicited advice is so unpopular is because the person it’s directed to is usually not open to receive it, or they’d be asking for it.  In order for your words of wisdom to sink in so someone can learn from them, that person has to be receptive and in the right mood to receive them.  Most parents have learned this the hard way, after realizing that their kids won’t listen even after being punished unless they are in a mindset that allows them to.  When people are taken aback by your criticism, they are most likely going to be thinking “What the heck is this person talking about?  Why are you saying such things?  Do you think you are better than me?” among other things.

So, if you have some advice to give, you need to make sure the other person is open to receive it.  In order to do this there are a few things you should keep in mind.  Before you do so, ask yourself just once again, “why am I so interested in giving this unsolicited advice, and can it be avoided without major problems?”

Tips for Giving Unsolicited Advice [When Absolutely Necessary]

1) If you’re going to criticize, make sure you do so gently, in a way that the other person can save themselves.  You don’t want them to be cornered and feel suffocated, let them feel good about themselves.

2) Don’t just jump in and give your opinion, let the other person talk about the topic and fully listen to them.  One of the main reasons people don’t listen to someone’s advice is because they don’t feel they have been heard and understood before getting the criticism.  If you don’t stop and listen openly & patiently, don’t give advice.

3) Ask questions that put the other person in an agreeable tone, saying “yes yes.” Master influencers know that someone who has been agreeing with you during a conversation, no matter if it’s in topics unrelated to the issue at hand, will find it easier to agree with you when you switch topics to your subject of interest during the conversation.

4) Try to make the person think that the final idea the arrive at is their idea, even if you lead them there.  For example, you can ask leading questions to a friend that make him/her realize they need to be more prompt to meetings, such as “I have been arriving 5 minutes to some of my meetings, and I’m planning to do something to fix that, do you have any tips?”  to which they may respond “you know, I’ve been arriving 10 minutes late to my appointments, I should do something too!”  Eventually you may suggest that you both set alarms or use a daily agenda, but finally allow the other person to have the satisfaction to think that they decided all by themselves to use that agenda.

5)  Think about the person and personalize the feedback.  The same exact words can have devastating results in one person, but great results when told to another.  Make sure you are delivering your message in the way that will make the best impact in this individual.  Choose the appropriate time and setting, and method, to deliver your feedback.  This is probably the hardest step of all.  No matter what you do, don’t give this feedback when you are in an emotional state, keep your head cool.

These simple tips about unsolicited advice may make it better if you really have to give the feedback, but don’t overuse them.  The best way to get the most out of a conflict, is to avoid it altogether, so use that as your rule of thumb.  If conflict is necessary to fix someone’s habits that are affecting others, then give feedback in a delicate, considering manner that will help the person be willing to change.  At the end of the day, no one changes because YOU want them to change, they change because THEY want to change.  Give them a reason to want to change, and no reason for them not to want to change.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Some times even when advice is not solicited and not well reacted to it can still be the thing you need to hear. It can be the first crack in the shell of bad habits that lets you see there is another way to do things. I know there have been times in my life when the shock of some one else opion of my actions or comments has made me revalue my position. I guess what i am saying is that just as we should make sure those we give advise to are ready to listen we should aslo try to be ready to hear any advise that may come our way.

  2. I agree that we would be wise to learn from feedback and advice we receive, particularly that we haven't solicited. If everyone could do this, our world would be a much more pleasant place to live and there would be no need for this blog entry. If advice is always given with the best in mind for the other person, and such advice comes from a place of no harm or arrogance, I sure hope people take their time to learn from it. Thank you for taking your time to comment, I appreciate it.

  3. I totally disagree with the above 2 comments. Clearly the most important advice in this article is this: do not give advice. Period. To repeat-“To offer a man unsolicited advice is to presume that he doesn’t know what to do or that he can’t do it on his own.”- John GrayThe above one sentence says it all. The main problem is when you give unsolicited advice to another person, you are implying you know better than they do, and that they are are doing something wrong. I just had an encounter with a new tenant in my old flat who gave me unsolicited, and quite wrong advice. It is such a big turn-off to receive ignorant, misinformed advice from a person who does not even understand the situation, e.g. my business. Perhaps the quickest way to lose a potential business connection is to tell another person who to manage their affairs!My final comment on this thread: the times we live in today are times where everybody seems to be talking–and nobody is listening. It makes sense there is more unwanted “advice” being offered. Don't do it. You'll get much farther keeping quiet and, like the author above says, if you must give advice be extremely careful about if the context is right, and the person will even listen. To be wrong in this is to risk losing the association altogether.

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