The Motives Behind Offering Advice

Have you ever caught yourself giving out unsolicited advice?

Perhaps, even positioned yourself strategically where you would be at the right place and time to offer that advice? If so, you might be feeling a little low on influence, so you try to look for opportunities to present your point of view. People who give out unsolicited advice often do so not because they necessarily care about the receiving audience but because giving advice gives them a sense of control and power.

If it’s something you catch yourself doing often, the first step toward resolve is to recognize and admit that you have an issue with wanting power and control. You might even be truly concerned about the people you’re speaking to and feel that they should have all the information. You might even think they would be better off if only they knew what you know.

There are, however, healthier ways of influencing people. The first is to simply ask for permission. (May I offer a tip for…? or I went through something similar, do you mind if I share my advice on it?) They may say no and you might take a risk for feeling less powerful, but at least you won’t steamroll over them. They may realize they want to hear about your experience and come back at a later time to ask for the advice. Either way, they will appreciate you for allowing them the choice, contributing to their own sense of power.

You must also remember that sometimes other people have the same crave for power as yourself and allow them to direct you once in a while. You must trust that they too, have wisdom such as yourself. Listen with an open mind and consider what they have to say without letting your own need for power to get in the way. You can’t possibly be the expert in everything and should speak your mind with kindness. By being considerate of others, you will build the healthy trust so crucial to getting ahead and earn respect-based power.

Perhaps you’re on the receiving end of the unsolicited advice and wonder how to respond. You must realize that the advice givers have underlying anxiety to their behavior and if fueled with negative responses, things could get heated. If you’re trying to avoid confrontation, you could proactively communicate your boundaries by validating the advice giver and letting them know that you’ve heard out and appreciate their help. “Thanks for the idea” or “I have my own ways of handling this, but I truly appreciate your perspective and will take your advice into consideration.”

The situation will almost always diffuse much quicker when responding with compassion. If you don’t take it personally and have the time, you could try validating the advice giver by asking for more advice. You might already know the answers but you will have offered the advice giver a chance to speak their mind. “Oh really? I hadn’t thought of that. So, what else would you do?” It might sound a little condescending but at some point in the conversation, the advice giver will experience an “Aha” moment in the error of his/her ways.

But, if that doesn’t work, and things are progressing in a way you didn’t expect, you could always shut it down completely. “That’s great advice, thanks” or “I understand you’re trying to help, but I would rather not discuss this any further.” The key is to manage your emotions in such a way where you still maintain your cool and not get defensive.

But you don’t have to take my advice on it.  

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