Tips for Giving Good Advice

Ever had someone give you advice, only it wasn’t very helpful? Often people mean well, but just because someone has an opinion about something doesn’t mean it’s advice you should take to heart. Over at RelevantMagazine.com, Christopher Abel shares “5 Ways to Give Good Advice.” His tips are helpful to keep in mind, whether you’re on the giving or the receiving end. 

One of the most important requirements to giving good advice, in my opinion, is earning the right to speak into someone’s life. This isn’t always a requirement, but when it comes to having to give advice that is hard to hear or offering caution, it’s best when it comes from having earned that right. Abel writes:

“Someone once told me working with people is like working with currency. Every time we show ourselves to be reliable, helpful, caring or fun, we earn some ‘coin’ with that person. When we disappoint, hurt or make them uncomfortable, we ‘spend’ some of what we’ve earned. If we spend more than we’ve made, we go into debt with that person and the relationship is in the red.

“Good advice has the potential to make someone uncomfortable. This isn’t a bad thing. But if you are too frank with someone, you have the chance of spending more coin than you’ve saved up. So don’t be afraid to work up to it. If you’re a loyal, reliable, caring person in their life, chances are you can say things other people couldn’t. You’ve earned the coin.”

I remember sharing a fairly personal request with the girls in my small group during our prayer time. There was a new girl there whom I had met only a few hours earlier, and she immediately started offering solutions. She meant well, but since she didn’t know anything about me or the situation, it was more awkward than helpful.

What about when you offer advice but the receiver doesn’t follow it? Abel advises loving unconditionally.

“Sometimes no matter your motives, relationship strength, questioning approach or coin earned, your advice will be ignored. The person you care about will make mistakes and hurt themselves and others. It’s moments like these that make us feel like we’ve failed or lost. But the truth is, life is often more forgiving than we realize. Even the most tragic events can have redeeming qualities.

“Don’t give up on people. Sometimes the best advice is presence. Henri Nouwen says it like this: ‘When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.’”

Even if your advice goes unheeded, it’s really powerful to still be there when the consequences play out. Rather than being the one to say “I told you so,” what if you were the person who simply said, “I’m here for you no matter what”?

Along with earning the right to give your advice in the first place, and loving unconditionally even if the person doesn’t take it, what are other tips for giving good advice?