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 support—emotional support, esteem 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.
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
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 accuracywhich 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?
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.
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.
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.
Kids with ADHD often interact in ways that can provoke negative reactions from peers.
Do any of these ADHD Behaviors sound like your child?
Dominating: Tries to dominate play or engage in ways that are too aggressive, demanding, and intrusive.
Bossy & Uncooperative: They may have trouble joining in with peers in the things their peers like to do. Instead, they may want to make their own set of rules, or engage in bossy, “unfair” or non-compliant ways, and generally may have a hard time knowing how to cooperate with other kids the same age.
Unaware of Social Cues: Many kids with ADHD have a hard time picking up on and reading social cues because of their struggle with attention.
Boredom and Distraction: Kids may become bored easily, get distracted and “check out” on friends.
Emotionally Reactive: Many kids with ADHD also have a hard time managing difficult feelings and can very quickly become overwhelmed, frustrated, and emotionally reactive.
What’s a Parent To Do?
Our kids do not want to talk with us about their challenges, and certainly not their social challenges.
Even so, there are things you can do to start building trust with your child. You want to be their safe place. They need a safe place.
The best place to start is by shedding your parenting cloak and show up as a coach for your child.
Here’s how to have a coaching conversation with anyone!
Use the PAUSE Method
Pause. Stop. Breath. Understand and take control of your emotions. The difference between an emotional reaction and a thoughtful response is the Pause.
Acknowledge. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings. Say, “I can see how important this is to you. I know this is a hard situation. I notice how much you care about this. I can hear in your voice how hurt you are.”
Understand. Get curious. Seek to understand the situation better before trying to fix it. Ask, “What else happened? What made you think that? What are you assuming? What is the worst thing about this? What is the best thing about this?
Solve. Partner with the other person to come up with solutions. You are not to fix-it for them. Ask, “What can you do about this? What do you have control over? What are your options? If you could do anything to fix this, no matter how crazy it sounds what would it be?”
Encourage. Nurture continued and future communication. Remind the person you are always available to listen. Be in a state of support, not judgement.
Coaching Conversations Guide Posts:
Always ask “What” Questions. Never “Why”. Why puts people on the defensive.
Always ask permission to share your opinion or your own story.
As I send my two oldest daughters off to college my fear of them sitting alone at lunch or hiding by the gym lockers have moved to fear of them locking themselves up in their dorm rooms isolated and lonely.
I think my own social anxiety is triggering these fears. In my heart, I know my girls will push through the “uncomfortable” that always accompanies new experiences. I’m also a realist and know anxiety is a heavy load to carry.
For some students, be it 6th graders, high schoolers or college students, another year of school is another year of anxiety filled moments. Academic stress, athletic competition, social pressures and personal insecurity makes the start of school overwhelming and intimidating.
So much focus is put on academics and we forget the highest anxiety moments are the social ones. Since when is lunch the highest stress point of a student’s day? Sadly, it is the reality for more students than you’d think.
For students who live with ADHD, anxiety and depression, the “back-to-school” period is especially troubling. For many the fear of the unknown – like a new teacher, new school, or new schedule – can cause or exacerbate feelings of social anxiety. For students with ADHD these fears are magnified as their over-active minds play out one potential social catastrophe after another.
Who is this older gentleman feverishly taking notes, wearing a business suit at the CHADD Conference? I assumed him a physician or school administrator. WRONG! He raises his hand and asks, “How can I be there for my granddaughter to support all her interests. She has so many. I want her to know I care but it’s hard when her interests change daily.” Wow. What a lucky girl his granddaughter is to call this gentleman Grandpa.
In another session, for women with ADHD, many women stood up and shared their struggles with ADHD and what they’ve learned to do to live with more ease. Their honesty, vulnerability, and sense of humor moved me beyond words. Talking about it with each other gives us community, support and understanding. Ladies, we are all stronger when we lean on each other. I urge you to find support in your community or start your own group!
For some at the conference, they would come out of a session and say, “I thought the speaker was talking about me! He described me, my habits, my fears, my goofs, my oops, my need for speed. He even knew of my desires to do more, to do it better, to do it without reminders, to not let others down, to not let myself down. I came here for someone else I care about with ADHD and discovered my own ADHD.”
That first self-diagnosis can leave many unsettled. Not knowing how to tell others. Not wanting judgment. Not knowing what to do next.
I’m grateful for the ADHD community of professionals who work tirelessly to reach others who could really start rocking and rolling in their lives with just a little support.
Mostly, I’m grateful for those who are already stepping up and supporting someone they love living with ADHD.
What can you do when someone shares they suspect or know they’re living with ADHD?
Parents speak out on “what things are keeping them up at night about ADHD for their family.
“Will my daughter find people who can support her while she works on her social skills? Friends that can understand she can be inappropriate or come off as thoughtless. She just doesn’t have that awareness yet.
“Can my son learn skills he needs to take care of himself?
“I worry about my daughter socially more than ever. She gets bored with things…..and people very quickly.”
“The biggest concern I now have with my son is how to help him deal with anxiety.”
“I worry a lot about how my son would fit in, in the real world as an adult.”
“Will my daughter be able to manage on her own, get a job, hold a job, get bills paid?
Can you relate? Worrying about how our kids will manage as adults is natural. We spend so much time worrying about algebra test scores we miss what is “missing”. Do we know our kids social intelligence score? Our kids need social muscle to achieve independence.
Those with ADHD frequently struggle with friendships. They’re often isolated and withdrawn. Some choose not to socialize. If they do, they may be rejected.
Worse, isolation and rejection may lead to other problems like depression and anxiety.