My Advice on Giving Advice


My advice on giving advice is best summed up by the mid-80’s pre-rap band, RUN-DMC: It’s Tricky. (Go ahead….“tricky, tricky, tricky”. I know you can’t resist.)

There are so many factors that weigh into the decision to even give advice. How you deliver it is really the second part of the equation.

Next time you sit on the Advice Throne, I invite you to consider this:

Do they want your advice?  Really. Do they? Or do they just need someone to listen? I’m using bold, italics and underline here to REALLY stress this point! Dishing out advice and listening are two TOTALLY different scenarios, although doing one well (listening) can yield positive results for the other (giving advice). Remember the book by John Gray, “Men are from Mars and Women are From Venus?” One of Gray’s revelations to men back in the day was to stop trying to solve their significant other’s problem with advice. Just listen. In his counseling practice, he discovered that’s what women often desire. Fortunately, it’s a concept that transcends all relationships. Truly listening is probably the most undersold skill for successful interactions with all people. When you’re approached with the “Hey – I need your advice…” question, tread gently, intentionally and honestly. Perhaps ask the other person: “Do you want advice or for me to listen?”

Assess your relationship with the other person.  How many people would you feel comfortable telling they have bad breath or body odor? Or how to better market their business? You have to take the relationship you have with the other person into consideration. Especially important when it comes to giving unsolicited advice. Do you have enough deposits in their emotional bank account to make a potential withdrawal with your advice? Is there another person who has more deposits that can better deliver the message or advice?

Ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t give advice. Sometimes it’s best to stay quiet. Actively listen. Other times it’s best to let the moment pass, give yourself some time to think and then revisit with well-thought-out words. We can all relate to this. How many of us did not take our parents’ advice because we weren’t ready to hear it? Only to realize later that those same parents magically acquired intelligence and the advice they gave us years ago was spot-on. Most parents walk around with a bad case of the “I told you so’s.”  Fortunately, they chalk it up to “maturity.”

Always come from a good place. Concern. Love. Understanding. Patience. Empathy. Do you feel compelled to dish out advice just because you want to hear yourself speak? Know it all and want others to know that you know? Or are you emotionally connected to this individual and generally have advice that may be helpful? Perhaps you can relate based on your own experiences (without turning it into a conversation about you, you you.).

Think before you speak. There’s an acronym using the word THINK that is spot-on.  Is it: True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?think

You’ll notice that this acronym is not only helpful for framing advice, but also generally before we speak, text, or e-mail. We could all use a bit more thoughtfulness before we open our mouths or our fingers hit the keypad.

It’s not your life, it’s theirs. They may not agree with your advice or suggestions. And that’s perfectly OK.

And most of all: do not be the least bit judgmental in your words or tone if you do give advice.  No one can hear with their minds and hearts what’s being said when they’re being judged or attacked. Remember….come from a good place.

Offer support and kindly follow up as needed. This is especially true when you were the trusted person who they chose to ask for advice. This is where you can be a true friend, confidant or professional.

Family, friends, and professional relationships are life’s foundation. They are gifts that should be cherished and enjoyed. When asked for advice, consider it a gift as well and treat it with care.

Mind Your Manners,


  1. Thank you for this blog. Listening is a skill and we have to be conscious of it and practice it. I love the suggestion to ask “Do you want advice OR for me just to listen.” I am going to implement this today and start getting better results.

    • Kelly

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Angela! Thank you for taking the time to comment. My listening skills are in a constant “working towards improvement” stage. I have to remind myself to listen. listen, listen before I begin to clarify with questions. Especially hard for the extroverts!

  2. Thanks Kelly,
    Perfect timing and great reminders about not trying to solve everything all the time…especially for control freaks like me. Sometimes….just listen! You are spot on as usual! Thank you!

    • Kelly

      We’re not control freaks Heidi..we just have a lot to share 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Kelly, you always have such good advice! Needed this today! Thank you!

    • Kelly

      My pleasure Donnamarie! Thank YOU for reading and commenting!

  4. Thank you, Kelly! I love reminders that help keep me in check. A true and equally extraordinary listener is a gift that we should give one another. And it’s definitely our moral responsibility to THINK before we speak…nice acronym! Thank you very much for this dose of Etiquette for Everyday!

    • Kelly

      I like how you see things Mary Beth – listening IS a gift we can easily give one another! Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Excellent reminders and refresher Kelly !

    • Kelly

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting Thea!

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