Why Giving Unsolicited Advice is Dangerous

In an effort to help those around you, you’ll sometimes feel a need to give them advice on improvements they can make.

We generally feel the desire to give advice based on what we perceive ourselves to be good at. Your intentions for giving unsolicited advice may be well-meaning, and you may be truly looking out for the best interest of your subject. However, the reactions to our unsolicited advice can come in many forms.

It is not necessarily a guarantee that your advice will be accepted in a positive light. You may be surprised to learn that those who you give well-meaning advice to refuse to accept it. Giving advice with good intentions can serve to sever your relationship with the person who you’ve given that advice to. The field of unsolicited advice is a tricky one to navigate and this article aims to shed light on why that may be.


The Meaning of Unsolicited Advice

Giving unsolicited advice means thinking someone needs your advice when they didn’t specifically ask for it.

There are a series of assumptions at play when someone decides to give unsolicited advice.

The first assumption they make, is one which paints the person they’re giving advice to as less experienced than themselves.

Another assumption people who give unsolicited advice make is the belief that those they’re giving advice to are open to learning at that moment in time.

Giving unsolicited advice thereby entails adopting risks in regards to how those you give advice to will react. In doing so, you communicate yourself to be a supposed authority about the subject you’re giving advice on. That self appointed leadership role is often challenged.


Pride: People Are Bad at Responding to Unsolicited Advice

The presentation of advice which hasn’t been sought out can be interpreted as criticism. People who receive unsolicited advice first come to understand that they’ve done something incorrectly, and therefore have triggered the reception of the advice in question. Though your advice may be given in an effort to help your listener, their pride can sway them to interpret it as a criticism simply being masked by being helpful.

If you’re dealing with an individual who takes pride in the domain which you’re giving advice, they will be likelier to reject your advice. Be wary of giving advice to people who take pride in their craft, and ease the inherent critique your advice comes with by acknowledging it directly.

If you anticipate your advice being interpreted as criticism, you should ensure to ease the pain by mentioning your lack of desire to criticize. Mention that you’re only trying to help the person who you’re giving advice to, and that you are in no way attacking their expertise in the field. Ensure to communicate a desire to add on to their output, rather than change it entirely.

Expect your prideful listeners to be at least somewhat offended by the advice you give, and counteract this probability before it grows within them. Couple your advice with compliments. Compliments serve more to disarm their rebuttal rather than increase their liking for you. It is more difficult to react negatively toward someone after they’ve given us a compliment, even if you think they’re inherently criticizing us with the advice they give.

Steer away from giving advice publicly to limit embarrassment, and to give your listener every chance to keep their pride intact. Your listener may work hard to give out the impression of being skilled in the domain you are giving them advice surrounding. The act of giving them advice in a specified field can dissolve their reputation of being skilled in it.

For example, if you are partnered with a skilled boxer in a boxing class, you may notice that they don’t keep their left hand up at their face when they throw a right uppercut. Even though your skill level may be lower than theirs overall, you may figure it’s better to let them know of this small mistake they’re making. In effort to keep their pride intact, compliment them on other aspects of their boxing.

Then mention your observations when you’re sure no one else is listening, and be nonchalant in doing so. Present your advice once, and don’t be too worried whether people take your advice to heart. Once you’ve voiced your thoughts, your job is done. People who take your advice seriously will further inquire into it. In the boxing example, the boxer to whom you’ve given advice may ask you whether that mistake has been fixed later in the class. However, don’t keep mentioning the fact that their left hand is not at their face.


Leisure vs. Practice: Refraining From Needing to Always Give Advice

Realize that even though you may have the mindset of continuously improving, some people enjoy partaking in leisurely activity. When others are partaking in leisurely activity and not taking their tasks seriously, it’s best not to give them advice about those activities. For example, if you’re enjoying a summer’s day at a pool, perhaps you shouldn’t start coaching people on proper swimming techniques. They may be enjoying their time and not willing to learn in that particular moment.

Take note of proper times to give advice. Do not give advice when people don’t care for improving or learning. Be wary of people already knowing of the advice you’re about to give but choosing not to implement it for the sake of having a good time. The people in the pool may be simply relaxing and not caring for proper swimming technique at that particular time.

The person having fun playing around with a beach ball may be a good volleyball player themselves, and the jogger who you give running advice to may in fact be a marathon runner on their day off training. We seldom go about our days doing everything with utmost seriousness. Be careful about being too serious when others aren’t. You’ll have a chance of ruining the good time someone else is having by misinterpreting their leisurely acts for serious performances.


Your Credentials May Not Be Seen As Impressive

Another aspect which improves the reception of the advice you give is being seen as credentialed and skilled in that particular domain. If it is not clear that you’re skilled or credentialed in a field, your advice will not be taken seriously and openly. Ensure that the people who you give advice to understand the level of skill that you bring to the table.

If you don’t possess the necessary skills to be giving out advice but still do, make sure you disclose your lack of experience in the field. Begin such instances by saying, “I’m by no means an expert, but do think you should be…” in an effort to acknowledge your lack of expertise in the field.

When experience isn’t on your side, your unsolicited advice should naturally assume a questioning form rather than an instructional one. Rather than stating, “You should be turning the wrench the other way,” a lack of experience would result in your statement assuming a less confident form: “Do you think you’re turning the wrench in the right direction?”

People who are dishonest about their expertise in a field aren’t well perceived. If you try to mask your lack of experience while giving out unsolicited advice, you’ll be seen perceived as a poser. You’d risk your future output being discredited unfairly due to your act of presenting yourself as someone you’re not in one specific facet of life.

If you find yourself lacking the experience or credentials when giving out advice, you should acknowledge that fact right off the bat. Do not set any expectations which you can’t meet, and try limiting how disappointed others are upon realizing the fact that you’re not skilled in the area which you’re giving advice in.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.