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Coach Carlene

If you take this advice, it might actually save a relationship/friendship or two.

Oh, the irony. Someone who gives advice on a personal development blog giving the advice to not give advice and then giving some more advice. Well, it has to be said. And there are better ways to helping others solve their problems.

Of course, there are different forms of advice and different situations. If your friend is asking for your advice, there’s nothing wrong with giving them advice. Even if they are coming to you with an issue in their life, sometimes, given the situation, it can be okay to give advice depending on how it’s delivered.

Here we’re talking about unsolicited advice. Giving advice when the receiver doesn’t want it or ask for it regardless, whether they “need” it or not.

5 Reasons to STOP Giving Unsolicited Advice.

1. They don’t want your advice.

This reason alone should be a good enough reason to not give someone advice. We should at least respect that. If they didn’t ask, they probably don’t want it. If they genuinely wanted our advice, they would’ve asked. A lot of times people just want to vent and just want someone to listen. They either already know what to do or there is no decision to be made.

In that case, regardless of whether they “need to hear it” or not “you should’ve or shouldn’t have done this” might not always be helpful and can, in fact, be harmful. 

Keep reading, you’ll see how harmful.

2. It assumes the other person does not have the knowledge or ability to handle the situation.

You gotta love when you tell someone you’re traveling to Europe and they respond with, “You know you should get a passport.” Wow. Really? Did I ask? Why does this person think I can’t figure that out myself?

When we tell someone what to do or what they should do, we’re unintentionally implying that we know better and that they’re emotionally or intellectually incapable of making that decision or knowing what to do in a particular situation.

It can be insulting to a lot of people if they feel as though their abilities are underestimated. And we, the almighty giver of advice, can sometimes end up looking like a fool.

Unsolicited advice is usually considered intrusive and can overstep boundaries. It can be patronizing and condescending. Giving advice can also be insensitive given certain situations. 

We, as humans, thirst for approval. When we are given unsolicited advice, we feel criticized, we take it as rejection. This can be painful for us—some more than others. Besides that, being told what to do automatically triggers defensiveness.

People don’t like being told what to do. Me included. That’s partially why I love being an entrepreneur – being my own boss. Raise your hand if you’re a fellow entrepreneur loving the journey of figuring it out and having the freedom to ask for advice when you need it!

I digress. Back to it…

Depending on the advice, we can also be implying that the person needs to be saved or fixed. They may also feel judged because their decisions that were advised against were wrong. Judging the actions and decisions that person made. No one likes to be told they’re wrong either. It’s also telling them that you know better than they do. 

3. Unsolicited advice can damage your relationships.

There are four types of social supportemotional supportesteem support, informational support, and tangible support. Informational support is just a fancy term for advice giving (not to be confused with information advice). Which types of support are more effective and least effective in supporting someone have been studied.

Regarding relationships and marriage, research on marital satisfaction and support conducted by Erika Lawrence at the University of Iowa found that too much advice (informational support) is worse than no support at all. Informational support was also the most detrimental form of support. Romantic partners want empathy, validation, and appreciation first and foremost. 

It also weakens communication. It can often end the conversation because the person feels judged and defensive.

4. Research has also found that receiving advice makes us feel less confident in ourselves and our abilities.

People are more likely to fail depending on how the advice is given. First of all, the decreased confidence can be destabilizing for those struggling with reaching their goal. 

Many people can see advice as an attack. You’re not only challenging their competency and self-efficacy but their personal freedom to figure it out themselves as well.

Traditional advice (do this, do that) helps to persuade someone to agree with you, but it barely helps them learn and grow. Someone becoming angry and upset with you is not going to help them. It can actually create more problems.

But, bearing and taking responsibility for one’s own life leads to tremendous growth.

5. Very few people will follow through and act on unsolicited advice. 

Even if it is excellent advice. Because of reactance theory, people will react with defensive defiance. Their personal freedom is being threatened, and they’ll want to make the best of their independent decision making. It stops the creative brainstorming that may lead to learning something new.

It’s kind of like what people sometimes like to call “reverse psychology.” People will do the opposite of what they’re told to do. I bet we can all think of several times in our lives when we rebelled for no other reason than someone told us what to do. 

Keep in mind, I’m someone who enjoys helping others. 

I’m conscious of when I’m giving advice. I make sure to listen. 

As part of my coach training, I was trained to not give advice but instead to support and partner with people to help them find their best answers. 

THIS. IS. HARD.

So many times, I think, I know the answer and I literally have to put my hand over my mouth to keep quiet. And then something amazing happens. This amazing person I’m coaching, finds the answer, the solution, the awareness, the aha. And you know what, that answer was NOT what I thought it was. 

I truly believe that everyone is capable of finding their best way. And if their best way is asking me for advice then I give it. 

If I have something I want to share, be it a past experience or piece of knowledge, you know what I do before I share?

I ask for permission to share. Yup. Ask for permission. 

We all have ego’s and they get the best of us. No matter our good intentions, the desire to be the hero, to save someone, to be right, only serves to feed our ego. That is not helpful to anyone. 

7 things to Do Instead of Giving Advice

1. Listen.

Just be present and really hear the person out. Listening doesn’t just involve not saying anything. It requires actively listening. If we’re in our own head waiting to say something, we’re not listening. If we have internal dialogue going on, we’re not listening.

2. Ask Questions.

Fully try to understand the situation and place yourself in that person’s position. You don’t know everything. You can’t read their mind either. Ask them how they feel about it, why they feel or think that way, what they want to happen, what they’re going to do, etc. 

People want to be acknowledged. Acknowledge their feelings, the struggle. 

Help guide them through it. Instead of taking the authoritative and dominant position of telling them what they should and shouldn’t do, help them be the ones to solve their own problems. That way when they encounter future similar issues they are better able to tackle it. 

It gives them a sense of independence and responsibility as well. It gives them the freedom to make their own decisions.

3. Show Empathy.

If it came down to just one thing to do instead of giving advice, it would be this. Even for those who wish to give advice. Empathy is essential. I can’t stress the importance of empathy enough.

In several studies, psychiatrist David Burns found, using advanced statistical techniques for distinguishing cause and effect, that a therapist’s ability to empathize is not only positively correlated with a patient’s progress but contributes to it as well. In other words, therapists’ empathy is a causation to the success of patients, not just a correlation.

Another study found that support is more likely to be effective when the person giving the support has higher empathic accuracy which is how accurate someone can understand another person’s thoughts and feelings.

4. Give Emotional Support

This type of support can also include physical support like a hug or pat on back.

Another study on support by psychologists Lorenzo, Barry, and Khalifian at the Universities of Maryland and Wyoming analyzed the differences between emotional support and informational support. They found that people who receive emotional support feel better and have higher relationship satisfaction. For most people, emotional support is their preferred support to receive. Overall, emotional support over offering and giving solutions makes couples happier. Researchers suggest to default to emotional support rather than informational support to keep the doors of communication open.

5. Show confidence in them and their judgment that they are able to do what’s best for them.

People are the experts of their own lives. Expressing confidence in them will help give them confidence in themselves. Sometimes that’s all a person needs, and they will appreciate you for that. This can also be considered esteem support and often leads people to start believing in themselves more.

Someone being able to work through a situation and make a decision on their own, especially a tough one, can really help them grow and learn. We can’t learn and grow if someone is always making decisions for us.

6. Consider your situation and past life experiences.

If we don’t completely understand or have any experience or actual researched knowledge in their situation, it’s better to just be there for comfort, validation, and emotional support. Know that you can be a really great friend without having to give any advice whatsoever.

A lot of times someone just needs someone to talk to. That’s it.

What works for you or is right for you might not work or be right for another.

7. Consider other options and viewpoints than the one you have in mind.

Know that there is not one thing we know 100% of. We all have blind spots. There might be things that you’re overlooking or haven’t considered or thought of.

What piece or pieces of all this unsolicited advice are you going to follow?

Want to learn more on how to build and protect your confidence?

Grab your free guide: The Habit of Self-Doubt: Crush It and Build Real Confidence

Tuning out her son army crawling across the floor to grab his headphones and helping her daughter make homemade tortillas for her Spanish class all while running a virtual team meeting was the breaking point for one of my executive clients.

Let’s call this client Claire. During our last conversation I could hear her exhaustion, frustration and overwhelm.

She sighed, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I’ve hit the wall!”

Can you relate?

After weeks and weeks “safe-at-home” we are hearing more and more that people are feeling overworked, distracted, stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. Adrenaline got us through those first weeks. Now we’re reaching into our energy reserves to get us through.

Claire knows she is not showing up for her team or family like she wants to or like they need her to. Not only is she distracted, but she’s got a short fuse. She says she doesn’t have any patience to listen to her family or team. She wants to simply tell them what to do and move on. Her stress is at an all-time high.

When our brains are flooded with stress chemicals, we lose the ability to show up with empathy.

Add to that, we are no longer getting that great energy from being with others in person.

And the cherry on top is that connecting virtually comes at a cost. According to Harvard Business Review, we are suffering from “Zoom fatigue”. They have found that when we are on virtual calls, we have to use so much more energy to focus. This explains why Claire is so exhausted after meeting on-screen at least 6 hours a day.

Meeting in person is like having a healthy, well-balanced meal and meeting virtually is like eating cheetos for dinner.

After talking more, we discovered Claire is not taking care of herself. Her sleep is erratic at best. Exercise is non-existent. She has her leaded coffee for breakfast, cheez itz for lunch and M&M’s for dinner.

Claire wants to do better.

I asked her what she could do now to empty all the crap out of her cup and fill it with things to reduce her stress and give her more energy and focus.

She said, “I think I need to make wellness part of my job description. Framing it that way will help me make it a priority.”

I usually don’t encourage clients to take on more than one change at a time. But Claire is ready to do radical self-care. She decided to tackle three areas that will have the greatest positive impact on her overall well-being.

Eating

  • Claire has committed to eating something high in protein with her morning coffee.
  • She’s blocking 30 minutes at noon each day to eat a healthy lunch with her daughter and catch up with her.
  • She’s telling her team that her workday is done at 6pm and will make a weekly plan with her family for getting a healthy meal on the table every night.

Movement (Exercise has a negative connotation for Claire.)

  • Claire committed to doing 15 push-ups as she rolls out of bed.
  • Claire will set her timer to go off 30 minutes into each meeting and have everyone get up and move for 5 minutes.
  • She committed to walking the dog with her husband every night after dinner.

Sleep

  • Claire will go to bed at 10:30pm and wake up at 6:30am every day.
  • She will do a 5-10 minute meditation to wind down from the day and clear her mind.
  • She will not check her phone in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. She will check her phone after she has had her breakfast.

This is the time to double down on our self-care.

In fact, Claire told me she was never this “messy” with her self-care. She can’t even believe what bad habits she has adopted these past several weeks. She’s confident she can get back on track.

If you’ve got some messy self-care going on, make your own action plan of specific things you’re going to do to start feeling better.

Do you have a hidden advantage?

Maybe you live with ADHD and creativity comes naturally for you.

More good news; recent research shows individuals with ADHD have an innate creative potential that could put them among an organization’s most valued employees.

Researchers at the University of Michigan studied a group of college students with and without ADHD who were compared on lab tasks of creativity and found the research indicates that individuals with ADHD are:
  • More flexible in tasks that require creating something new, and less likely to rely on example and previous knowledge.
  • Less prone to design fixation or the tendency to get stuck in a rut,
  • Less likely to stick closely to what already exists when creating a new product.
This research provides more confirmation that the characteristics of ADHD can be an asset in creative endeavors. It also means that for those with ADHD, finding the right career to allow that creativity to flourish is essential

Is creativity alone enough to rise above the competition and put your innovations out in the world?

Of course, you also need the hard skills or technical skills, that you learn in school or training programs.
In order to ensure your ideas come to life you need a combination of technical (hard) skills and inter-personal (soft) skills.

Creativity is one of many soft skills that is essential in a world where innovation is paramount to an organization’s growth.

7 Other Soft Skills to Boost Your Creative Impact

  1. Communication
    With the number of emails, proposal and design documents, clear and compelling written communication is essential. Effective verbal communication is equally important.  If you work in the IT field, you often have to explain technical processes in clear, easy-to-understand terms for customers and employers. You must also be able to explain your ideas in such a way as to make others want to support and finance your projects. Without strong communication skills, your creative genius will be overlooked and your creative ideas will never make it to market.
  2. Determination
    A number of innovative projects stall because of a variety of issues: financial problems, issues with vendors, problems with software, hardware or processes, a lack of teamwork, or one of many other reasons. It is important for to stay focused on the ultimate goal and continue to work toward that result. Beginning a project with a clear and realistic timeline and budget can help you achieve your ultimate goal. Your employer will be impressed with your ability not only to plan a project, but also to see it through to completion.
  3. Flexibility
    Professionals often face setbacks or unexpected changes, ranging from a technical problem with their project to a last-minute issue with a vendor or a change in direction from management or the client. You must be open to suggestions and feedback, whether from an employer or client. Listen attentively to any feedback you receive, and be open to making necessary changes to improve satisfaction.You need to learn to be flexible, accepting these changes and immediately looking for creative solutions. Employers will appreciate this flexibility.
  4. Leadership
    Even if you are not in a management position, you will often be asked to manage a project or team. Being a project manager requires strong communication skills, the ability to delegate tasks, and a constant focus on the end goal. You may also be involved in client and vendor management. It is essential that you know how to communicate with clients and vendors effectively to ensure your company’s needs are being met efficiently.
  5. Listening
    It is not only important to communicate your own ideas, but you also need to listen actively to others. It’s important to listen closely to what the client or your employer wants so that you can give them exactly what they are asking for. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand the other person.
  6. Negotiation
    No matter what your position, you will need some form of negotiation skills, from making hiring decisions to collaborating with vendors or contractors to selling your idea to an organization. Being able to come to an agreement that satisfies both parties is a great soft skill that will make you stand out, particularly if you want to be promoted to a management position.
  7. Teamwork
    Innovation projects are often the work of a team of professionals rather than an individual. Therefore, teamwork is essential. You need to be able to communicate your ideas and listen to others’ suggestions, and know when to take a leadership role and when to be a team player.

Master these soft skills and your creative ideas will come to life!