Advice Giving

Do you love giving advice to friends? Do you notice that when they share their troubles you know just what they need? It's amazing how you can come up with solutions that you know are just right for them. But, is advice giving the best thing to do?

I have a great friend, Joan, who loves giving advice. She loves giving advice so much that she's constantly thinking up ideas for people even when they aren't around. Joan thinks about what people need such as jobs they should seek, where they should shop, or even what clothes they should wear. Joan gives advice to everyone: friends, family, and even brief acquaintances. She believes that if people would just listen to her, they would be so much better off and happier.

However, do you notice how people rarely take advice? They complain about their troubles, but when we give them a few pointers; they just don't do it!

Unfortunately, people rarely take advice, especially, if is unsolicited. "If only, Katrina would have listened to me," Joan would say, "she would have solved her problem by now." The problem is, if people, aren't specifically asking for advice, they are probably not seeking it and will most likely not take it.

Joan didn't realize that when she gave advice, she was subtly communicating that her friends weren't capable of solving their own problems. Getting unsolicited advice often made them feel inadequate and defensive; feelings that certainly kept them from being open to ideas and solutions.

What do people who complain want then, if not our advice? Often, our friends just want to vent, they want to express their problems out loud for support. They just want someone to listen to them. What the listener can do, instead of trying to solve the problem is to ask questions that can help their friends better think through their difficulties.

For example, instead of giving Katrina advice about the problems she was having at work, Joan could have asked questions to help Katrina better clarify her dilemma, such as: "What have you tried so far?" "What has worked for you in the past?" "What are your thoughts going forward?" "What are your options?"

Do you see how asking questions can be more helpful to our friends, like Katrina, than just jumping to advice giving? Asking questions instead of solving, let's our friends know they are capable of figuring out their own best path and they will feel happier as a result.

The AAA Method is a great tool for helping friends through their problems:

  1. Acknowledge the Emotion: "I can see how frustrated you are." I know how sad that must make you feel.

  2. Ask Questions: "What could you do?" "What have you thought of so far?" "What are your options?"

  3. Give Advice: After you have completed steps 1 and 2, people will be more open to hearing your thoughts and ideas. I, generally, recommend, however, that you ask to share your advice before giving it. For example, "I have a few ideas, if you would like to hear them." When you ask to share your thoughts, it shows a sign of respect for the other person because you have acknowledged their feelings and abilities. They will then let you know if they are open to your suggestions, and will more likely feel empowered to accept them.

The AAA Method can strengthen relationships. Problems have a way of working themselves out when people feel acknowledged and are given the opportunity to express their thoughts as well as their ideas for a solution.

"You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway."

-John Steinbeck

              Connie M. Leach, Ed.D.      

Connie M. Leach, College & Career Coaching Services