Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were asked for advice and struggled to find the right words or action? It happens to the best of us, but all is not lost.
Everyone enjoys giving and receiving advice. Whether it’s a simple suggestion or more comprehensive advice, we like to listen to what other people have observed in their lives and tried out for themselves.
Giving good advice can be challenging at times, but it’s an art you can get better at with dedication; just like anything else, it simply takes practice. In this article, we will take a deeper look at how to give good advice to an individual.
Understand the Situation and the Person
Whether you’re advising a friend, colleague, or family member, the first step is to get inside their head. You can’t help someone if you don’t understand where they’re coming from.
This goes for any kind of advice-giving and problem-solving. To convince someone to do something different, you must know what’s important to them and why.
For example, if your friend wants to lose weight but is not doing anything about it, it’s easy to say, “Hey, just start exercising!” But if they’re already doing that and it’s not working, another issue may be addressed first.
It could be as simple as not eating enough calories or tired from working out all day. Or maybe they need some extra motivation in addition to exercise — maybe they need some support from their friends or family members who also want them to succeed in this goal.
Let’s take another example. If someone’s experiencing a lot of stress at work and looking for advice on how to deal with it, it helps to identify what kind of stress they’re experiencing: Is it a specific stressful event or ongoing? Is it a specific person or circumstance (or both)? What are some things that have worked in the past? What hasn’t worked? And so on.
This also applies if you’re trying to help someone with their career or job search. For example, if you’re helping someone find a new job or change careers, you want to know why they want this change — what do they want out of life? What kind of job would help them achieve those goals? And so on.
Understanding the situation is key when advising because otherwise, you may just be talking past each other without helping anyone!
The Role of Active Listening and Empathy
When you’re giving someone advice, listening and hearing what they’re saying can be difficult. Sometimes we want to give advice so badly that we don’t take the time to really listen. We want to fix their problem immediately, so we offer our opinion or solution.
But if you want your advice to be helpful, you must listen first.
Active listening and empathy are two of the most important tools in the counselor’s toolbox. It involves reflecting on what you heard them say and asking questions to clarify.
For example, if someone says, “My husband has been very depressed lately,” you might respond by saying, “So you’re saying your husband’s been really sad lately?” This shows that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying and trying to understand what they mean.
It is a skill that requires patience and practice, but it can improve your relationships with other people and help you become more successful at work.
You can use empathy to communicate with another person effectively and understand their origin, such as “I can see why this is so upsetting for you” or “I understand how frustrating this must be.” These statements show that you understand what they’re going through and can empathize with them.
Empathy allows us to see things from another person’s point of view to understand where they are coming from when they talk about something that has happened or why they are feeling certain ways at certain times. It helps us figure out how best we can help them without making them feel worse than before.
Ask Questions and Gather Information to Understand the Situation Better
A good listener is a great friend. And a good friend makes you feel comfortable enough to share your deepest thoughts and feelings. To be a good listener, it is important to ask relevant questions and listen carefully. Here are some tips on how to do that:
Ask open-ended questions and avoid yes-or-no questions
Ask questions starting with “how” or “what” instead of yes or no. For example, “How did you feel when he said that?” or “What do you want me to do?” instead of “Did you feel angry when he said that?”
Ask open-ended questions about feelings, experiences, and needs
For example: Tell me more about what happened in your life recently. How did it make you feel? Is this something that has happened in the past? How does it impact your life now? What would make things better for you now?
Ask follow-up questions if necessary
If the person seems reluctant to answer a question directly, try rephrasing it or asking why they don’t want to answer it directly. For example, I’m sorry if this question makes you uncomfortable, but can you tell me more about what happened?
When you’re giving advice, it’s important to ask questions and gather information before you start giving your opinion. This helps you understand the situation better and allows you to give more accurate advice.
Focus on Solutions, Not Problems
When someone has a problem, they’re usually looking for one thing: solutions. And that’s why you must focus on solutions rather than problems when advising someone.
Here are two reasons why it’s important:
1. You’ll be more helpful by focusing on solutions than problems because the person asking for advice likely wants solutions more than anything else. When someone asks for help with a problem, they aren’t interested in hearing about everything that went wrong — they just want to know how they can make things better again as quickly as possible.
2. By focusing on solutions instead of problems when giving someone advice, you’ll make yourself look more competent because you’re helping them solve their problems instead of causing more stress for them by dwelling on their past mistakes or difficulties with this issue in particular.
Having said that, when you hear someone say, “Don’t worry about it!” or “It’s not a big deal,” what do you think? The truth is that this kind of advice isn’t helpful at all. What people need is real help.
When you’re giving advice, it’s important not to get caught up in complaining about how terrible something is or what the person should have done differently. Your goal is to help them fix the problem — not to make yourself feel better by pointing out how wrong they were or what they did wrong.
Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t have done that,” try saying something like, “What if you had done X instead?” You can also ask questions like:
“How can I best support you through this difficult time?”
“How else might we handle this situation now that we know more about it?”
Reframe Thoughts and Approach the Situation from Problem-Solving Perspective
It’s not always easy to change your perspective. But it can be done.
Reframing is a powerful tool that can help you learn how to solve problems more effectively and overcome challenges in your life. It can also help you overcome negative thoughts that hold you back from doing what you want.
Here are a few tips that you can suggest on how to reframe any situation:
- Stop thinking of the problem as a problem. Instead, consider it an opportunity to learn something new or develop a new skill.
- Look at things from a different angle and try to find a solution rather than complaining about the problem itself.
- Ask yourself what good could come from this situation if you changed your perspective on it. What would happen if you took action and did something differently?
- Remember that nothing lasts forever — even bad things have an expiration date!
Here are a few examples of reframing thoughts by approaching the situation from a problem-solving perspective.
- “I’m really stressed out about my job.” becomes “This is an opportunity for me to learn how to handle stress better.”
- “My boss annoys me.” becomes “I am going to look for ways to improve our relationship so both of us are happier at work.”
Be Honest and Direct
Regarding giving advice, there is one critical rule: honesty and directness.
Giving advice, especially constructive advice, is an art form. It can be difficult for some people because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel bad about themselves.
But if you’re not honest and direct when giving advice, the other person might think that you are trying to hide something or that they are not worth your time.
When giving constructive feedback, it’s important, to be honest and direct with the person receiving it. Be clear about what you want them to do differently and give them options for changing their behavior.
For example, if a friend always texts you instead of calling you because he doesn’t want his mom overhearing his conversation, then suggest that he call next time instead so she doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong (even though texting might be easier).
If someone is asking for your opinion about something, but it’s not your place to tell them what to do about it, let them know that upfront so they don’t waste their time trying to get an answer from you when you can’t help them out. This will save both of your time and energy!
To sum up, it’s important, to be honest and direct when giving advice, and here’s why:
- Your honesty shows that you care about the person and their well-being.
- Your directness shows you’re willing to confront them if they need it rather than just telling them what they want to hear.
- It allows them to learn from their mistakes, or at least own up to them and make amends with those who were hurt by their actions, rather than continue to deny them or make excuses for them.
Avoid Sugarcoating and Avoiding the Truth
Sugarcoating is a very popular approach to giving someone advice.
Some people believe sugarcoating is the best way to deal with sensitive situations. They believe that telling someone the truth can hurt them, so it’s better to sugarcoat the situation and tell them something they want to hear.
However, there are some potential pitfalls with sugarcoating or avoiding the truth while advising someone.
First, it’s easy to get caught up in your feelings and forget about the other person. If you don’t say what you really think, then you can’t expect anyone else to do so, either. People are more likely to listen when they feel heard.
Second, if you’re not honest with yourself about what you want from this situation, you won’t be able to offer the best advice for yourself and the next person. You might end up being even more confused than before because now there are two people who aren’t happy with the situation (you and your friend).
Third, if you try to avoid conflict by skirting around issues, there will be no resolution, and everyone will end up miserable — including yourself because eventually, your friend will realize that she can’t trust what you say anymore (and vice versa).
Fourth, offering false advice that doesn’t match their actual needs or situation will make them feel worse because they know deep down that something isn’t right, but they don’t know how to fix it themselves.
Communicate Honestly and Constructively
Communicating honestly and constructively while giving someone advice is not easy. Finding a balance between being supportive and honest can be hard.
However, if you want to help someone make changes in their life, it’s important to have an open, honest conversation. Here are some tips for doing so:
1) Make sure the person really needs your advice. Sometimes people just want to know how you would handle a situation. That’s fine, but don’t give them more than they requested. If you’re unsure whether they need your advice, ask them if this is something they want help with or just a friendly chat about the situation.
2) Don’t be afraid to tell people when they’re wrong — especially if you’re trying to help them improve themselves. As long as you’re respectful and honest about what you think, people will appreciate honesty over being “nice” all the time. Plus, if they don’t take your advice because they didn’t like how you gave it, there’s nothing more you can do anyway!
3) Be empathetic — use “I” statements instead of “you” statements when possible (e.g., “I think that…” instead of “You think that…”). This helps people feel understood without feeling attacked or blamed for their actions/inactions/choices/etc.).
Follow-Up and Offer Support
Giving advice is one of the most rewarding things you can do. It makes you feel helpful and valued and enables you to share your knowledge with someone who may be struggling.
But it’s also a responsibility — if you advise without following up, it’s unlikely that your advice will be taken seriously.
So, if you want someone to take your advice seriously, here are some ways to make sure they do:
- Be available for follow-up questions. If the person is willing to ask questions about what you’ve told them, this means they’re interested in following through on it. Make sure you’re ready with answers!
- Ask how things are going. Ask how the plan is working out for them or whether they’ve decided to proceed. Make sure they know that if they have any problems or questions along the way, they can come back to you for help.
Also, ensure the person you’re speaking with knows you’re there for them if they need support.
Let them know you are there for them and give them space if they don’t want to discuss it. You can do this by saying something like, “I’m sorry this happened,” or “I hope things work out,” or “You deserve better than this.”
If they want to talk more, they may ask you questions about your experiences with similar situations or what you would do in their situation. Be prepared with answers, and be sure not to judge or criticize their choices — even if they make different decisions than you would.
If they don’t want to talk about it right now, just say something like “Take care of yourself” or “Let me know if I can help at all.”
Giving good advice is all about give and take. You need to be able to sense what the other person wants; you need to be able to understand where they are coming from.
When people ask for advice, they just want you to tell them what you think. They don’t want your advice so much as your approval of their course of action. However, when someone truly seeks your advice, they often follow it with “…but what do you think?” or “…but what if we…”
Good advice isn’t just telling someone what to do. It’s also giving them a way of viewing the situation from all angles and letting them come up with their conclusions.