If You Want to Give Good Advice, Stop and Listen

We have all been on the receiving end of bad advice. Here are the essentials to consider before giving and asking for advice.
If You Want to Give Good Advice, Stop and Listen -The Art of Good Enough

We all have been on the receiving end of bad advice. People mean well, but their opinions don’t always help. Yet, whenever we stuck in a situation, not knowing what to do, we automatically seek advice from friends, family, mentors, or even the experts.

Sometimes, the advice itself is good, but it just isn’t right for you. That is because you and the adviser are different in personality, beliefs, and values. The piece of advice might work for them, but not for you.

 

How to give good advice?

 

 

If someone seeks your advice, what can you do to ensure you give the best advice you can?

First, stop and listen.

When people recount their situations or stories, do not cut them off or jump to a conclusion. Ask for details to get a complete picture. Parents especially, take note not to criticize your children before giving your opinions. Unsolicited advice often leads to resentment and anger.

Often times, advice-seekers want understanding, not solutions. It’s difficult to view a complicated situation clearly when you’re stuck in the middle of the mess. By listening carefully and asking clarifying questions, you help them analyze their situations and come to their own conclusions.  

Second, explain your reasons.

After you give advice, explain why you think that’s a good idea. Your explanation helps people to see your point and realize the differences between you and them. It aids the recipient to make a rational decision on their best options.

Third, know your limitations.

If you genuinely care about the advice seeker’s wellbeing, be frank about your limitations in giving the advice. Tell them about your experience and point out how different the current situation is. If possible, refer them to someone whom you believe can be a better fitting adviser.

What to do when people give you bad advice?

 

One, thank them for their good intentions.

People like to help. They believe their advice can help you, although sometimes nothing could be further from the truth. Acknowledge their good intention and move on.  

Two, know where to see advice.

If you are trying to decide on a college major and ask ten people what the most in-demand jobs will be in five years, you’re likely to get ten different answers. People come from different backgrounds and have varying natural tendencies. These dissimilarities contribute to different opinions. Ideally, you want to seek advice from someone with whom you share similar beliefs and values, and who has lived through similar situations with yours.

Third, not to rush.

Sometimes, you might be too shocked by a difficult situation to view things calmly and objectively. It’s wise to allow sufficient time to pass before making decisions.

We all need time to gain clarity. It takes time to detangle knotted yarn. A good adviser can help you locate one end of that tangled yarn and let you work your way out of the mess.   

 

When you’re suffering…

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who is a breast cancer survivor. We talked about how rare it is to find good listeners who pay attention without passing judgment. Pain is a dark and lonely place. Those suffering in pain, physical or emotional, don’t expect you to bring a cure or a solution; they just need your presence to feel alone in that dark and lonely place.

We laughed at the most outrageous advice we each had gotten in the past. Out of curiosity, I posted this question to a Facebook group, and here are some answers I received:

If You Want to Give Good Advice, Stop and Listen -The Art of Good Enough

What are the stupidest things people have said to you when you’re sick or going through tough times?

  •  
  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “Have you googled that?”
  • “OMG, that happened to me!”
  • “You don’t look sick. (I have stage 4 cancer).”
  • “God won’t ever give you more than you can bear!”
  • “My mom passed when I was 17. I was having a tough time, and a ‘friend’ said, ‘Will you just get over it?’”
  • “When I was going through chemotherapy, I had one person say, “you know you could have used shark cartilage or peach pits.”

 

We’ve all given and received advice before. I’m sure you can count the times when someone gives you the best advice in life. Remember what you’ve learned and keep in touch with those who have helped you. The next time someone asks for your advice, try not to give a bad one if you can help it.  

 

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Dr. Ivy Ge

Dr. Ivy Ge

Doctor of Pharmacy, author of The Art of Good Enough and Life Transformation Journal. She writes to inspire women to design their own fate. Her writings and interviews have been featured on MSNBC, Thrive Global, Working Mother magazine, Parentology, and The Times of India.

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