Always Giving Advice?

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Are you the ‘helpful sort’? Always ready to tell those around you what they can do instead? Advice giving might actually be hurting your relationships and leaving you lonely.

How can advice be a bad thing?

1. It’s actually more about you.

We give unsolicited advice because we want to feel useful and be liked. Or we might, if we have a competitive streak, deep down want to seem smarter than the other person, to show off how much we know. It's about our own low self-esteem.

2. It’s often a judgement.

When you give advice, do you start with ‘you can’t’ or ‘I would never’?“No, you can’t do that….” “I would never do that, I would do this…” . These are judgements. You are implying the other person is ‘wrong’.

3. Advice closes the door.

If there is one thing that can shut down a conversation, it’s unsolicited advice. Notice next time if you even tend to cut the other person off. And watch how they back off, or change the conversation.

4. It’s often an assumption.

Unless you asked many questions first, unsolicited advice is generally an assumption. It is what you would do if you were the other person. But you aren’t. You are someone different, and what works for you might not work for someone else, or might not even be good for them.

5. The other person is left feeling bad.

Unasked for advice implies the other person isn’t as smart as you, can’t trust themselves, and lacks the resources to find their own answers.

So how is it ruining my relationships?

Offering unsolicited advice can achieve the following:

The end result is that you can weaken or even ruin relationships, and be left lonely.

But don't therapists offer advice?

A good therapist rarely if ever offers advice. They are there to instead offer highly developed listening skills. And ask just the right questions, so that you find your own answers and inner resources.

What can you do instead of offer advice?

Learn to listen properly. Proper listening means you don’t cut the other person off, and you aren’t busy planning what to say next. You are putting all your attention on their words, fully present, and taking what they say seriously.

Ask good questions. Instead of advice, ask good questions that help the person find their own answers. Reflect back what you think they said, and ask if you understood correctly. Then ask how/what questions, which tend to look to the future more than ‘why’ questions that just cause overthinking.

If you are sure it’s appropriate, ask if someone wants feedback first. If you really feel you have something valuable to share, ask the other person if they want feedback first. If they don’t, then don’t give it.

Constantly having trouble in your relationships? Therapy really helps. Book a therapist you like at a price you can afford now, and make this the week you move forward.

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