Advice for the Young Professional Advice Givers

Many of us YPs would like to think of ourselves as someone that our colleagues, friends, and family can turn to for advice. We like to believe that they see us as educated and successful, and as an ideal resource for guidance and perspective. While being that go-to advice person is certainly a special honour, a lot of responsibility comes with that role. If you want to be an effective (rather than annoying) purveyor of advice, here are some notable tips to consider before doling it out: 

Make sure it’s actually asked for
People love to complain. At the office, on social media, in line at the grocery store, complaining is something we all see and hear nearly everyday. A major mistake that many advice-givers make is interpreting such complaining as someone seeking a solution for their problem. Sometimes people just want to vent, to find a sympathetic ear that will offer nothing more than an “awww, that really sucks,” or a “things will get better soon.” The problem with offering advice to those who have not explicitly asked for it is that you run the risk of stating the obvious, implying that the complainer isn’t already aware of such a solution. Even if you think you know just how to fix another person’s problem, be sure they are actually asking for your advice before presuming that they can’t help themselves.    

Do more listening, less advising
Another common mistake made by advice-givers is doing too much talking and not enough listening. Again, sometimes people are just looking for an outlet, a safe place to air out their misery – in other words, a good listener. You may have the very best advice but don’t underestimate the fact that most people are able to figure things out on their own; sometimes they just need a good friend with an open ear and a closed mouth. Only once the venting is complete, and the request for advice has been made, is it then time to offer your fresh perspective and words of wisdom. And the only way to provide your best counsel is to first get a thorough understanding of the problem, the whole problem, and the only way to do that is by really listening.

Encouragement trumps advice
There is a big difference between advising others on what to do, and encouraging them to find their own way. You may have been in their situation before, or you may be certain you know just what they should do, but in all reality, you can’t know what’s best for another person. Most of the time, people are able to find their own solutions, they just need a boost of confidence and some positive assurance from an encouraging friend. Additionally, by offering simple, yet powerful encouragement, rather than advice, you remove the risk of you being held responsible if things don’t work out. No one wants to be the guy that offered the bad advice, so absolve yourself of the risky responsibility by trying out encouragement instead.

Practice what you preach
Finally, we offer this last tip, which may seem obvious yet remains frequently unobserved: the “practice what you preach” rule. We advice-givers love to tell others what to do, how to live, who to date, etc., and yet so many of us fail to follow that path that we send others on. The only way to offer advice that can be truly helpful is to know that it works from our own personal experience. How are we to be any kind of authority on ways of being and doing if others don’t see us living it ourselves? “Lead by example” is a similarly great rule for advice-givers, because only when we live the life that we presume others should, can we be in any position to offer advice about it.