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Typical people aren't aware of
when and how to advise, or of some potential relationship pitfalls advising
can cause. This article offers perspective
(advice) on giving advice to kids and other adults while preserving or improving your
relationship. It presents...
Perspective on giving
Two options for advising,
and a major pitfall with one of them;
Six types of advice to be
aware of; and...
How to respond to unwanted
This brief YouTube video hilights what you'll read in this article:
Note the difference between giving feedback to people, instructing
them, and advising them. Feedback means giving information
about something - e.g. about the person, their behavior, your feelings and
needs, your opinions and perceptions, etc. Instruction is teaching a
person how to do something.
Advising is feedback
about what you think the other person should do about
All kids and adults have daily and long-term problems - physical and psychological needs
(discomforts). They range form minor to major, and
immediate to long-term. Pause and reflect: what are the current problems
Now focus on several adults and/or children who are important to you. For
each one, try saying out loud what you think their most pressing current problems
are. What's causing them the most
There are many ways to support ("help") someone with a problem -
spending time together, prayers, appropriate touching (like hugs), verbal
and written encouragement and reassurance, flowers, cards, phone calls,
physical assistance, providing resources, doing favors, andgiving
suggestions (advising). This article focuses on the last of
Depending on many factors, adults and kids have four main choices in
resolving their current problems:
deny or minimize problem/s and/or postpone
trying to solve them;
acknowledge problems, and implement their
own solutions without seeking advice;
feel torn, indecisive, and unsure of what to
do, but don't admit this or seek help; or..
feel torn, indecisive, and unsure of what to
do, admit the problem, and ask for help.
People may unconsciously choose one of these options as their preferred
"style": Juanita can be "independent,": and prefer to solve her own problems
her way. Neil may solve some of his own problems, and ask for help with
others; Alicia may have learned to get attention in childhood, she could be
"helpless" and her adults would fill her needs even if she could do so
Do you see yourself in one of these four "resolution styles"? If
not, what is your style?
Other Adults' Problems
How do you normally react when someone tells you of a significant problem of
theirs? Are you usually...
unempathic and indifferent ("That's your
problem, not mine." / "It's none of my business")?
what current problems you face, and how
distracting they are;
who the other person is (e.g. an adult or a
child, able or disabled);
your relationship with them (e.g.
stranger / acquaintance / coworker / friend / relative / mate);
gender, (typical women listen,
typical men try to "fix"); and...
the nature of the other person's problem
or not / local or long-term / medical, psychological, or relationship /
Though every situation is unique, you (your dominant subselves) may
unconsciously choose one of these reaction "styles" more than others. Do you
have different styles with different people? Do you see your preferred
style here? If not, how would you describe your usual response when
other adults tell you of their problems? Do you have the same response with
If someone asks you for advice, two variables to be aware of: are (1) how to
advise, and (2) what to advise. More on these options in a moment.
someone with a problem doesn't ask for your advice, you face a
dilemma. If you see a potential or actual source of discomfort or danger that they
don't see or admit. Is it your responsibility to alert (advise) them? If so,
how and when do you do that?
If you're a caregiving adult and the at-risk person is a child, you may feel
no dilemma - "Of course I'm responsible for trying to protect this child!"
If the other person is a mentally-competent adult other than a relative, are
you responsible for alerting them to the problem you perceive? Do you feel that generally, others are responsible for alerting
Though every situation is unique, one thing is common to all: your
and self respect. If your values dictate that you "must" alert the other
person in order to be "a good person," then you should do so - but
a pitfall that can damage your relationship.
Whether it's requested or not, there are...
Three Ways to Help Someone
The first way is to advise spontaneously and authoritatively, without
being aware of your or the other person's
primary needs. "Well you should
(do something)" or "You need to (do something.)" Depending on your
facial expression, choice of words, and voice dynamics, this can come across
as an arrogant, disrespectful put-down.
Reality check: think of the
last time someone told you what you "need to do" without your asking for
advice (e.g. "You really need to lose some weight!"). How did you feel?
Even with the best of intentions, this
kind of unaware, spontaneous advice can cause irritation, hurt, and resentment.
("I don't need you to tell me what I need!"). If this arrogant advising is
repeated in different situations, it can cause increasing distrust and
dislike and may rupture the relationship - specially if the receiving
person doesn't express their feelings.
The second (and better) way to advise someone takes conscious
awareness of several things before acting:
Is my true Self
in charge? If not,
A false self is apt to ignore these awarenesses or give you skewed
What do I need here? What's my
payoff for advising - to...
If so, which type of advice should I give
If s/he's not open, what are
reaction to what you just read. Think of someone whom you feel needs advice,
and imagine answering these internal questions before you advise them. Do
you think this would be helpful to both of you?
A third way to help someone
with a problem is a paradox - helping them by not advising
them. This is a judgment call. If you're too reliable about advising a
person with problems, they may avoid self-responsibility and depend on (or
expect) you to solve their problem. This can breed resentment and
frustration in both of you
This paradoxical way of helping can sound like this:
Other person - "So what do you think
I should do?"
You - "I'm
not sure. What do you need?"
Person - "Well, uh, I don't know."
You - "So you need to identify what
you need;" or "What would help you to feel better?":
Asking brief, clear, open-ended questions instead of advising can
help the other person become clearer on what they need and what their
Person - "I just
don't know what to do about ________________." (An implied request for
Person - "Yeah. Do
you have any ideas?" (asking for advice)
You - "Not really,
no. What do you need, exactly?"
Six Types of Advice
To raise the odds that your advice will be useful, be aware of these
Immediate vs. Long-term
Which is better: give a hungry
person a fish,
or teach them how to fish?
This timeless question illustrates two choices you have in advising a
child or adult - to (1) help them solve a current problem (fill a local need),
or to (2) show them how to solve their own problems. The first is
short term, the second is long term. Your choice will depend on many
variables like those above - specially whether your true Self is deciding,
and whether the other person is a child..
If you believe long-term advice is appropriate, consider describing one or
more of these to the other person...
how to analyze
and resolve typical relationship
problems, and perhaps...
how to free the person's true Self to avoid
or manage multiple and/or chronic problems. Refer them to
Vague vs. Specific
Some advice is so general and vague it is meaningless. For example;
Vague: "You really should really learn to manage your money better.":
Specific: "Let me show you how to balance your checkbook."
So besides being aware of
short-term vs. long term advice, also be aware of whether your advice is
specific and practical. A third useful awareness is about...
Support vs. Criticism
Has anyone advised you sarcastically or critically? The person's face and
voice dynamics - and perhaps their words - convey disapproval or scorn.
if the advice is practical and appropriate, the way it's delivered
can cause resentment, hurt and anger. Empathic, respectful advice and
support will cause gratitude.
If someone gives
judgmental advice, they're probably unaware of being controlled by a false
self. Even if they pretend respect, their face, body, and speech will "leak"
similar problem may occur if the person receiving the advice is
(psychologically wounded). They may distort reality and see well-intentioned
advice as disrespectful criticism. Their tireless Inner Critic can also
scorn themselves for needing advice.
Responding to Unwanted Advice
You have several options if someone advises you without your asking for
ignore their advice;.
acknowledge it and ignore it;
complain, blame, and express irritation or
awareness and an
inform the other
person how their behavior affects you and what you need from them. That could sound like...
"(Name), when you offer me advice
without checking to see if I need your opinion, I feel irritated and
resentful (or whatever). In the future, please ask me if I want
suggestions first, OK?"
If your true Self guides you,
you'll feel comfortable
yourself like this. Can you think of anyone who gives you unwanted advice?
How do you feel they'd respond to an assertive "I-message" like this? How
would you feel?
This article is one of a series
designed to help you optimize your relationships. Because it's human nature
to advise each other The article presents...
perspective on giving
advice to other people;
two options for advising,
and a major pitfall with one of them;
six types of advice to be
aware of; and...
how to respond to unwanted
Two keys to giving genuinely
useful advice are to ensure your true Self is guiding you, and to be aware
of a number of factors in you and the other person.