Asking and Not Asking for Advice

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asking for adviceHave you ever watched someone try to complete a task the wrong way? Are there times when you absolutely can’t help but try to correct someone else’s behavior or try to “teach a lesson” to your friends and family? We live in a giving society where most of what we learn comes from the lessons and knowledge of others, though often our most poignant and lasting lessons are the ones taught to us when we didn’t know we were learning.

How Does it Feel?

Though we might think that in butting into each others business that we are helping and guiding one another, in truth, giving unsolicited advice to a peer can make the other person feel bitter or even incompetent. Though it is tempting to help through direct advice, sometimes we are better off letting each other learn for themselves what works for them and what does not.

Display Respect When Giving Advice

Instead, we should focus on letting the people around us feel aware of the regard we have for them. We should be able to respect each other (faults and all) and let each other find our way to our own calmness and sense of accomplishment. Also, often we are able to more accurately see the nature of people when we allow them to handle difficulties on their own (and perhaps, we can realize something about our own intrinsic nature when we focus on our behavior when we are problem solving as well).

Wait for a Sign

When someone asks for advice, however, this is a completely different matter. This is a sign of vulnerability, but also of trust and respect. When people are ready to reach out to other people who they admire, they have reached another stage in their development of that skill or problem and are ready to share the burden.

I heard once that when people ask advice of people they don’t know very well, the relationship becomes more friendly and easy. On the other side, people who can be pushy in volunteering unwanted advice could seem as though they are trying to appear better than the other person. It is important to remember that we all have our own problems to solve. Think back to a time when you were going through a difficult time and people gave you unsolicited advice. What did it feel like?

Now You Try!

Try to spend a day or a week not giving any unsolicited advice. See what happens when you trust the people around you to reach conclusions and solve problems on their own. In remaining silent, we are most likely helping the other people to feel more motivated in problem solving, and more accomplished in their successes. Sometimes, the unexpected goodwill of others in the form of advice is welcome, though for this experiment, we are merely trying to see what it is like to back out of each others problems and look into our methods of managing difficulties.

3 thoughts on “Asking and Not Asking for Advice”

  1. Love the statement “See what happens when you trust the people around you to reach conclusions and solve problems on their own.” I’m not a believer in giving advice, as I think it can be very disempowering. If the person follows the advice and it works out, their self-esteem doesn’t go anywhere because it was your idea, not theirs. Same if it doesn’t work out – they simply distance themselves and say “it wasn’t my idea”. Empathy, listening, brainstorming, sharing experiences: much more empowering.

  2. This article is really insightful. I have come to realize that unsolicited advice especially the very pushy kind really often comes in part either from a desire to disempower the recipient, to assert oneself over the recipient, or to feel needed and important. Although they may not consciously realize it. Of course a person may genuinely feel their advice is needed or necessary. I think if they were honest about it though those situations where the unsolicited advice was really necessary to ward off disasterous consequences represent a minority of the cases or are being exaggerated.

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