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Unsolicited Advice: Who Asked You?

Have you ever sat listening to someone vent, and at the end, you wonder if they need your advice? Or, in reverse, the person is done venting, and you attempt to offer advice because you thought they were seeking a solution?


We are well-intentioned when we offer unsolicited advice, but it creates the impression we know what is suitable for the person to whom we offer the guidance. Sharing unsolicited advice is a slippery slope and is sometimes perceived as inappropriate and displeasing to the advisee.


If you were ever cautioned about your desire to fix the problem rather than listen, you were likely guilty of giving unsolicited advice. The viral video It’s Not About The Nail is a great example of giving unsolicited advice.


Offering unsolicited advice can put a strain on a relationship. The advisor means well, but the advisee only needs someone to listen. Therefore, knowing exactly what the person needs from you is necessary before you begin problem-solving. You have a genuine interest in helping, but you need the advisee's permission before advising because how you see the situation may differ from their perspective.


Indeed, you may think that the person is being unreasonable by thinking you meant disrespect by sharing your thoughts on the situation. Or the fact that you were generous with your time to sit and listen should be enough to make clear that you want to help.


Instead of providing unsolicited advice, remember that anything you say should not sound like a directive or moralizing. Importantly, please pay attention to how the person can solve their problems. Therefore, do not begin your statement with If it was me, I would … When you use directive language, you tell someone what to do rather than support them in finding their solution.


Try this instead:

  • Have you considered …

  • Have you tried …

  • Are you familiar with …

  • Are you seeking my support with …

  • Avoid making statements that sound like judgment.

  • Do not make any promises.

You could also try statements that show empathy instead of offering advice.

  • That sounds frustrating …

  • I support your position …

  • That would upset me too …

  • You seem to be coping well with this situation …

  • You showed a lot of strength at that moment …

  • Let me know what you see as your choices with this matter …

Oh, wait a minute. Did I offer unsolicited advice about unsolicited advice?


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