Giving Advice

As a counselor I get a wide range of people coming to see me. They come for all different reasons.  Some come because their child is causing problems in their home, their marriage is in tough place, or they are not finding enjoyment in their job like they once did.  Sometimes they are grieving the loss of the loved one.  Sometimes, in more serious cases, they are considering suicide or wanting to hurt someone else.

Associated with these reasons for counseling, are expectations about counseling.  Specifically, some people either expect the counselor to give advice or  the counselor merely act as a sounding board, a Freudian white wall. Even with my clinical experience, I miss the boat on the knowing what to do, whether to give advice or just listen.  Either I listen when I should be giving advice or give advice when I should be listening.  This happens to me in everyday life, as well.  I know none of you have experienced this.

This brings me to the part of the equation in which I give unsolicited advice when I should be listening.  I thought about giving unsolicited advice when I read a blog on The Art of Non-Conformity. Unsolicited advice does a number of things in a conversation, but I’ll list two.

  1. It creates a power barrier or an air of expertise.  Communication killer.
  2. It can negate what the other person is saying.  As simple as it sounds, giving unsolicited advice has the potential to quench the other person’s thoughts and emotions.

One way to offer advice without is suggesting something rather than telling it.  Suggesting builds rapport and trust in the relationship.  But the most important aspect to remember when offering advice is the relationship.  People want to know that you care, not what you know.

What other ways can unsolicited advice harm a relationship?  What other ways can advice be given?


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