How often do you offer advice: How often to you ask for it? If you’re like most people, it’s probably almost every day.

Advice seems to many to be part of the job description of being a supervisor at work or a parent at home, perhaps even with your value as a friend.

Giving advice is usually done with the best of intentions–you likely have a desire to ease someone else’s dilemma or distress. This article will help you understand all the dimensions and consequences of your good intentions.

The answers to the following questions will likely be different, depending on the person you are giving the advice to, and your relationship with them. Give some thought to when it is a positive experience and with whom, and when it is a negative experience and with whom. Jot down the names of the people who your responses refer to.

What is your experience with giving advice?
Do you tend to give advice only when it’s asked for, or do you jump in whenever you see someone in distress?

How does it make you feel: satisfied, helpful, important, smart?
Or maybe: frustrated, unsatisfied, helpless, discouraged?
Fill in your own feelings here______________________________________________________

What are some reactions from other people when you give advice? For example:
Do they appreciate it? Do they follow your advice? Do they learn from it? Do they give reasons why they can’t or don’t follow your advice?

In addition to the obvious as stated above: Advice carries with it the hope that you can ease someone else’s dilemma or distress. Here are some less apparent reasons:

Advice makes you think the other person will be appreciative, even grateful.
Advice feeds your ego, makes you feel important, valuable, smart.
Advice can make you feel you can control others’ behaviors or even reactions.

What happens to you and your well-being/sense of self when your advice fails to have the desired effect?
What is the story you tell yourself when your advice is successful? What is the story you tell yourself when your advice is unsuccessful?

You may have heard this concept: When you give advice and it turns out well, you get the credit. If it doesn’t turn out well, you get the blame. How does this help the other person take responsibility or credit for their own actions?

Give some thought to what some of your other goals might be:
Would you like the other person to feel capable, self-sufficient, empowered?
Would you like the other person to take responsibility for their own decisions?
Would you like the other person to be dependent on you for their decisions?

Most of us would like the other person to appreciate, like and respect us even more than they already do. However, giving advice is not necessarily the most effective route to that end. When, instead of giving advice, you encourage and guide the other person to finding their own answers, you are helping them build resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and responsibility. In most instances, this will achieve your goal of being appreciated, liked and respected more than giving direct advice. There will always be some people who don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives, who feel the need or desire to be dependent on others. When you maintain a practice of continually giving these people advice, you are enabling their dependency. If you stop giving them the advice they seek, you may experience anger, or even lose the relationship. Is this a relationship you want to keep?

Here are some steps to take if your goal is to encourage the self-development of others:
1. Do not ever give advice unless it’s asked for, and usually not even then.
2. Ask the other person how the situation is making them feel. Helping them get in touch
with their feelings helps increase their awareness of their blockage.
3. Ask the other person what they would like to do with those feelings.
4. Ask the other person what thoughts they have about how to resolve their dilemma.
5. If they say thay haven’t any thoughts, encourage them to think about their choices,
no matter how unlikely they might be to act on those choices.
6. Ask them to evaluate the pros and cons of the ideas they have.
7. Ask them which ideas they might be willing to act on.
8. Ask them how they might feel if they took action–pros and cons.
9. Ask them how they would feel if things turned out well? If things turned out poorly?
10. If they are truly stuck at any point, you can offer your own ideas–presented as
just that–an idea, not a suggestion or recommendation.
11. Ask them to let you know what they think of your ideas.
12. Ask them if your ideas help them come up with any other ideas of their own.

If this seems too ambitious an undertaking for you, pick and choose which of these topics will fit for you. Notice these are “ideas” –not advice!

In practicing this method, I’ve often received the response of great appreciation, even given credit for “helping” them, which of course I have by facilitating their tapping into resources they may not have realized are within them.

I’m interested in your thoughts and comments.