Giving Advice: What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

When someone we love is going through a tough time, we often try to solve their problem by giving advice. This makes sense, right? After all, we don’t want our friends or family to feel upset, so why wouldn’t we try to fix it?

While this is a common attitude, it’s not always the most effective way to help someone. Listening is often a much better option, so make sure you read our blog on how to be the best listener possible. Even mental health professionals almost always refrain from giving advice because people have the power to make their own choices. You might think you’re helping, but solving someone’s problems for them isn’t very empowering. If you help them understand how best to work through a problem on their own though, this knowledge will benefit them in the future.

Of course, there are times when giving advice might be necessary to help someone through a tough time. When you do this, it’s best to take a measured approach and ensure that what you suggest is genuinely helpful. Take a look at the following instructions to make sure you’re giving the right advice in the right situations…

Ask the right questions

We mentioned that giving advice isn’t an empowering option for someone going through a tough time. Instead, a good way to help someone come to a solution without giving it to them is by asking questions.

Let’s say someone is deciding whether or not to quit their job. Instead of telling them what you think they should do, ask them questions which might help them reach their own decision. This could be things like…

  • What are the pros and cons of quitting your job?
  • Which is outweighing the other?
  • Why might it be challenging?
  • How would you overcome those challenges?
  • Do you think it would be a good idea? Why/why not?

By asking the right questions, your loved one will be positioned to think critically about their problem and how to solve it. This is not only great for the issue they’re currently facing, but can teach them how to problem-solve in the future as well.

Think before you speak

Giving advice should never be taken lightly. It’s important to understand that if someone follows what you say, it could have serious consequences for them. Even if you have spent a while trying to understand the problem, the reality is that you don’t know every detail of the situation.

If you are going to give suggestions, make sure that it won’t put them at any risk of harm. For example, telling someone that they should move down to part time work to improve their mental health could be dangerous. What if they can’t afford to? What if going to work each morning is actually helping their mental health rather than hindering it? If you do give advice, you should also tell the person that you want them to think it through to ensure it’s right for them.

Ultimately, you should refrain from talking in absolutes or acting as though your solution is the only option. After all, you are not in their shoes and there might be some things you haven’t considered. This is why asking questions and encouraging them to come to their own conclusion is often best.

Don’t go out of your depth

Giving advice for the sake of it isn’t beneficial to the person you’re trying to help. If you find that you don’t know how to help them, it’s best to just listen to them and make sure they feel heard. You should then aim to connect them with a professional so they can begin working through their problems.

Ok To Talk offers a simple way to do this with our free psychologist matching service. You can get started today by filling out a few simple questions.