8 Tips How to Not Give Advice to People & Actually Help Them

It seems only natural to give advice to people we love and have relationships with. We definitely give a lot of advice to children. Sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes it makes children want to rebel against the advice more.

Our desire to help others also reaches to the adults we have relationships with. Whether it’s your spouse, significant other, parents, adult family members or friends, we often find ourselves trying to help out.

Imagine you noticed your husband making bad choices and heading straight for a brick wall (metaphorically speaking of course). It is only natural to feel the need to step in and help him avoid hitting the wall.

When you love someone and want what is best for them, your natural tendency is to help them avoid making mistakes by sharing your knowledge and experiences.

Although to give advice to people you love seems helpful and the right thing to do, it often has disastrous effects on your relationships.

There are two types of advice

  • Un-asked for, unsolicited advice
  • Asked for advice

If someone you love asks for advice, by all means help them. In moments when people seek your advice it is very helpful and caring to share your experiences and wisdom.

The problem is due to our caring nature, most of us go through our lives giving un-asked for, unsolicited advice to everyone we know.

Why Giving Unsolicited Advice Doesn’t Work

Sharing your experiences and what you think is best often backfires when you give advice to people who haven’t asked for it because:

  • They don’t want your advice. They want emotional support in learning from their own successes and mistakes. Truthfully, they want to hit the brick wall and have you be there to empathize with how bad it hurts.
  • People usually can’t learn from knowledge alone. They must learn from experience (hitting the brick wall).
  • Your advice may make them want to rebel against you and stick to their choices even more (hit the brick wall even harder).
  • They may not even think what you’re worried about is important to them.
  • People will not listen to or value your advice unless they’ve asked for it.
  • The person you are giving advice to most likely already knows the advice your giving them intellectually, but hasn’t experienced enough consequences or pain to change.

Think of the last time someone tried to give you unwanted advice and ask yourself these questions:

  • Did it help you?
  • Did you value it?
  • Did you feel heard and connected to that person?
  • Did you even listen or where you just waiting for them to be quiet so you could go do what you were going to do in the first place?

You probably answered “no” to many of the questions above. Not only is giving unsolicited advice bad for your relationships, but it usually doesn’t even help the other person.

Why Giving Unsolicited Advice is Terrible for Your Relationships

One of the biggest problems when you give advice to people who haven’t asked for it, is that it usually hurts your relationships.

Those closest to you want to feel loved, cared for, listened to, respected and related to emotionally. When you give unsolicited advice people often feel:

  • Spoken down to or belittled
  • That you didn’t listen to them
  • Disconnected from you
  • That you don’t care how they feel
  • That you haven’t understood their experience
  • Irritated by your arrogance
  • Disrespected

So, what started as a very caring, loving gesture on your part has turned into a disaster for your relationships. Despite your best intentions, people will almost always perceive your unsolicited advice in very negative ways that hurt your relationships.

How to Not Give Advice to People & Actually Help Them

When you’ve hit the brick wall yourself and have the injuries to prove it, it can be extremely hard not to try and stop someone you love from doing the same thing.

When you can see those closest to you making choices that are bad for them, self-destructive or will lead to unwanted consequences it can seem like you would be a terrible person to not give advice.

But, that’s exactly what is best for the other person and your relationship with them.

8 Tips to help you avoid giving unsolicited advice

1. Experience and consequences as a result of trial and error are the only true teachers. It is in your loved ones best interest for you to pull back and allow them to learn from their choices.

2. Separate the person from trying to help them solve their problems. Be there to support the person but don’t try to help them solve their problems unless asked.

3. Making bad choices, mistakes and hitting brick walls is a must in life to become strong, resilient and grow.

4. The most difficult part will be tolerating the discomfort of not giving unsolicited advice and watching them hit the brick wall. Remember, this is not about relieving your discomfort. It is what is in the best interest of the other person and your relationship with them.

5. Stay connected with the person while not necessarily agreeing with or endorsing their choices. Always acknowledge, accept and relate to their emotions, especially after hitting the brick wall.

6. Don’t ever say I told you so. “Say I’m here for you emotionally even if I don’t agree with your choices.”

7. Model the choices you want your loved ones to make, but don’t directly push it on them unless they ask.

8. Don’t give unsolicited advice period.

Say Yes to Love,

Dr. Michael Arn & Dr. Ashley Arn