8 tips for advising others

I had the oppurtunity to read a lively email exchange between junior and senior people recently and that helps me gain a better perspective of my own mistakes.

How many times have we advised our love ones out of concern? We perceive some danger or risk in the other party’s action and we advice them accordingly.

Unsolicited advices are just noise but we cannot turn a blind eye because we truly care…..

If our starting point is love and concern, why do we always end up being frustrated and angry? Especially when we believe our words are not being taken seriously? Especially if we notice that the other party is not following our “advice”?

If advice is like a gift, then we shouldn’t go crazy if our intended recipient rejects them.

If we expects the other party to comply with our every “advice”, then rightfully it shouldn’t be called an advice. They are instructions.

It seems like we got confused between advice and instructions. Are we really advising when in fact we are trying to tell the other person (be it our junior, subordinate, family, colleagues, students etc) ; do this, don’t do that or else….blah blah blah

The problem is when we start camouflaging our instruction as an advice, trying to fool others and perhaps ourselves. Both parties get confused!

(Perhaps, we already know that we are not in a position to instruct?)

True Skillful Advice

I am not a good adviser but I know how I would like to be treated. So the following is from a listener point of view.

  1. Be ready to face rejection. We may believe we are the wisest in the world and we can predict the outcome of the future, but if we are truly giving an advice then we need to understand the other party has a right to reject. They have all rights to say “Noted, thanks but NO. Thanks”
  2. Be ready to hear an alternative perspective. If we are dispensing an advice, we shouldn’t be upset if the listener’s perspective differs from ours. We shouldn’t go crazy because the other party believe otherwise. There is a great difference between offering an advice and trying to convert others point of view.
  3. Be upfront with our concern. I think it is better to state clearly what we are trying to get at. ” I am worried you may get into trouble if you continue doing………. because ………….” “This is because I had similar experience in the past. Can I share my experience with you?” Of course the other party may say “I am not interested in your past experience. Thank you” No need to get crazy.
  4. If we are unsure of our own observation, state our observation upfront and ask for verification. Do not interrogate others. It will only create mistrust and make people clam up. Our opinion of others IS USUALLY flawed. If we ask questions and only want to hear what we wish to hear, then that is not verification, it is an accusation whereby we are trying to extract a confession. Nobody enjoys an interrogation.
  5. Be patient and mindful of our own MENTAL position. Are we still giving advice or are we defending our position? Are we getting frustrated because the other party “does not get it?” Are we spending time trying to brainwash/convince/manipulate the other party? Is our agitation affecting our message? Nobody deserves to be mocked, criticised, belittled, threatened or verbally abused by us. Our intention and starting point might be good. However, once attachment, ego and pride takes over our mind, the Mr. Hyde in us surfaces.
  6. Do not get carried away. An advice becomes a NAG when there is no end to it! If receiving acceptance of our advice gives us tremendous happiness because we feel like we won. Then something is seriously wrong with us. Do we expect the other party to kneel and kiss our hand?
  7. Provide good alternate solution. An advice without constructive alternate solution is just criticism. Are we sure we are advising and not criticising, admonishing or censuring? Those negative speech pattern only discourage people from trying altogether.
  8. Back off gracefully Even our children may refuse to listen to our advice, not to say associates and friends. It is important to recognise that our advice had been snubbed. Time to back off gracefully. We cannot control others and we shouldn’t. Perhaps we can only pray for the best and continue looking out for them if we truly care.

May all beings be well and happy.

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3 replies »

  1. I used to stumble about this experience of trying to give advice quite a bit, totally agree with chapter True skillful advice. Out of experience by now, I am changing my level, I ask the One how they feel about what ever their issue is, like when they get angry about something I ask them what that anger of the other one does to them, so in a nutshell I try to get them back to them selves and search within what it is they get irritated. Usually there comes up a story about themselves connected to another one’s outburst and it is quite interesting. It is never about the Other’s , it always within us. I hope I am making sense


  2. I agree and its wonderful. There’s a saying in Chinese that means the observer’s perception is clearer while the person involved in a situation is too engrossed to see clearly. Guiding a receptive person inwards to see their heart is the best ! Most of the time, we do not like to acknowledge the truth in our heart and prefer to lash out at others instead….. So in way, what you are able to do is fantastic. Helping the person regain focus and reflect inwards. The truth is always within us.


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