About Giving Advice: Don’t Do It!

We all have difficulties solving our own problems, but we usually feel pretty confident in knowing how others can solve theirs! Some of us are quick to give advice, which is rarely a good idea. We need to go back to the admonition of James to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). That includes giving advice. A dear Christian lady, smiling, told me years ago, “Steve, don’t give advice. If you give advice and the people take it and it works, they will give you no credit. But if they take your advice and it does not work, they will blame you!” Needless to say, she was doing exactly what she said not to do, but she was right. Even when people ask, be careful about telling them what to do. People get pretty defensive when you start giving advice. The experts tend to agree. Both psychologist Greg Hale and advice columnist Jeffrey Zaslow, author of Tell Me All About It, offer points about advice:  Tread carefully. Pick a calm moment. Pose a series of gently probing questions. Offer suggestions with the preface, “This is something that has worked for me.” The greatest communicator of all, Jesus Christ, usually combined advice giving with other techniques. One of his favorites was the use of questions. For example, he could have simply gathered his disciples together and said, “You have been with me long enough to realize I am the Son of God and it is time for you to affirm that to the people around you.”  But he did not. Instead he used a series of questions, “Who do people say that I am?”  (Matthew 16:13-16)  The disciples have different responses, such as “John the Baptist” and “Elijah the prophet.”  Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). This affirmation was a key moment in his relationship with the disciples and he made it happen with the questioning technique. Paul tells us we are not  to use harsh words, and advice often comes across to people that way (Ephesians 4:29-32). Don’t give advice freely; seek to help others to find solutions to their problems through thoughtful questions and kindness.