To give advice or not to give advice? That is the question. In the past I used to answer that with, Of course I should give advice! Why wouldn’t I give advice?! Well, I have since learned a few reasons why I shouldn’t!
Why You Should Think Twice Before Giving Unsolicited Advice
For starters, too much advice can hurt relationships. On our end, we think we’re giving wise advice to help people be safe and happy. But on their end, they often feel like we’re trying to fix them. This makes them annoyed with us and hurts relationships.
Unsolicited advice can make the recipient feel unloved. Again, we’re trying to keep them happy and safe because we DO love them! They on the other hand feel like we’re focusing on something negative in them. That can make them think we’ll only love them if they’re perfect.
Unsolicited advice also hurts relationships when we give the same advice over and over. This makes people not want to be with us because they’re tired of getting advice!
Finally, unsolicited advice can hurt relationships with our adult children because it’s seen as a lack of respect. We think, I need to tell them this so they don’t make the same mistakes I made! They think, Mom (or Dad) doesn’t realize I’m an adult!
So how do we break free from giving too much advice when it’s something we just do without thinking?
Well, let me give you some advice about that…
How to Decide if You Should Give Advice or Not
In this blog post (and podcast episode), I want to share an acronym I’ve made that’s helping me know when to give or not give advice. I’ll warn you ahead of time, though. Usually I decide I shouldn’t give advice after asking the questions!
I call the acronym SPIKER. Think of a person standing at the volleyball net, jumping high to shove the ball down the other side of the net and take out the opponent. That’s how advice often feels to the advice-receiver. We think we’re giving a nice gentle lob over the fence to help them have a better life, but they think we’re pounding them with advice. This acronym will help you evaluate what you have to say so see if it’s worth giving.
With the holidays coming up, it seemed like the perfect time to share this acronym as many of us will be surrounded by people we want to give advice to!
SPIKER Acronym: 6 Questions to Ask Before Giving Advice
Ask these questions before you give advice. If you have adult kids coming home for the holidays, think about what kind of advice you may want to give them while they’re here. (Yes, I know it’s already running through your mind!) Ask yourself these questions before they get home. Or better yet, each morning before they wake up!
For Covid/Political Discussion: You can also ask these questions to determine if it’s worth getting involved in a political or Covid discussion – or if it’s worth saying that comeback you’re dying to say when the topic comes up. You’ll just have to tweak the questions a bit since they’re designed with advice giving in mind. For example, with P for Profitable, you could ask, “What are the odds they’ll change their mind if I engage this topic with them?” or “Is this discussion worth the damage it could do to our relationship?”)
- S – Sure – Are you sure you’re giving the right advice or is there a possibility you’re wrong or you’ll find out one day that this was bad advice?
- P – Profitable – Will it be profitable? In other words, how likely are they to consider taking your advice? (This is especially helpful to think about for unsolicited advice.)
- I – Important – Is it important? Or are you wasting your advice-giving-currency on things that aren’t that important?
- K – Knowledge – Do they already know this?
- E – Edifying – Is it edifying? Will this build them up? Or will it make them feel like you think there is something wrong with them that needs to be fixed?
- R – Repeat – Have you said this before? How many times? (Most people don’t want to hear the same advice more than once or twice.)
If you’d like to hear some examples of this acronym in action, check out the podcast episode. (Scroll down for links to listen to the podcast or click the player at the top of this post.)
How to Give Advice: 6 Rules
If you decide to still give advice after going through the questions, follow these six guidelines to help it be a positive experience.
- Be respectful. You will have a far better chance of them listening if you’re respectful. Before you give advice, try thinking of five things this person is doing well or five things you like and respect about this person. This will help you be respectful.
- Consider asking them for permission first. Since so many people don’t like unsolicited advice, it may be helpful to ask before you give advice. Just remember they may say no, and be respectful if they do. Which means no advice! (And no little comments about how they need advice!)
- Choose the right time and place. Try to choose a time outside the heat of the moment, but also not when they’re relaxing and having fun. It may even be helpful to tell them you have something to talk about and ask them what a good time would be (if they have time).
- Build people up with your words. In Colossians 4:29, Paul tells us to use words that edify others. Paul also tells us not to let any corrupt talk come out of our mouths, and to give grace to those who hear. That’s good advice!
- Try to preface your advice with a compliment. This may or may not work. After all, you don’t want them to think you’re buttering them up so they’ll take your advice! But if it’s possible, try to offer encouragement and positive feedback about other areas of their lives. And try not to only give advice or point out faults. This goes against rule #4 as we’re tearing people down, not building them up.
- Stop before you give too much advice. So often our initial advice is short and sweet. But when we don’t get the response we want, we may go into convince-them mode. This is often seen as obnoxious-mode by our advice receivers! So give yourself a little lecture and avoid the long-winded advice!
6 Lies That Make Us Give Unwanted Advice
Often we want to stop giving advice, but we believe lies that drive us to do it. Here are a few of these lies and some truth that will help us change our way.
- If we give them advice, we can keep them from making the mistakes we made. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. We ALL make mistakes–and even if we lived around the most advice-giving person on the planet, we’d still make mistakes. Why? Because we often think other people’s advice is bad (even though it’s good). And because we don’t always have enough self-control to take good advice even if we want to. Not to mention the fact, that the advice-giver may be wrong!
- If they (do this thing we think they shouldn’t do), they’ll ruin their lives and be unhappy forever. Ruined lives and unhappy-forever is not dependent on one incident in life. Also, joy comes through walking with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17, 22-24), not having a perfect life. So we can be joyful no matter what life throws our way as long as we walk with God.
- If they (do this thing we think they shouldn’t do), they’ll die. Again, this isn’t necessarily true unless they’re planning to jump off a high cliff. The Bible tells us our days are numbered, and they will only die if God allows them to die (Psalm 139:16).
- It’s possible for my friends and loved ones to have trouble-free lives. We don’t think this one outright, but I think we might believe it at the unconscious level. Unfortunately, we will all have troubles and trials!
- I need to give them advice so they can have a trouble-free life. See truth for #4. Plus, if I keep giving them unsolicited advice, I will be one of the troubles in their life! And do I really want to be that?
- I need to give them advice so they can continue to follow God their whole lives. Again, I have no control over this. In a world with so much skepticism, temptation, and condemnation of Christians, it’s a wonder any kids grow up to follow God their whole lives. We have lots of influence when our kids are young, not so much when our kids become adults sadly. The best thing we can do is pray for our adult children. We can also work on our own sins and character flaws so we won’t make them stumble with our behavior.
Does that mean we should never give advice?
No definitely not. Sometimes it’s worth giving advice. Just think it through first if you’re a person who tends to give too much of it. The Bible gives us all kinds of encouragement to ask advice from wise counselors, and advice can be life-changing! My guess is that if you’re a person who gives too much advice, you’re also a person who loves people and wants the best for them. That’s a good thing! Just be careful how you give it. Let your words edify and build up people. And love them well!
Resources We Talked About on the Podcast
- Blog post with advice questions – I wrote these awhile ago. They’re not as easy to remember as the SPIKER acronym, but still helpful!
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