Thursday, 17 November 2016

Advice Etiquette

Advice can lead to some heated arguments despite the good intentions it may have been dispensed with, particularly when it is disguised as an opinion.  When a friend or family member seems to complain about a situation, most people try to ‘fix’ the problem by making suggestions on how to tackle the situation next time it arises.

Sometimes people just need a place to vent, to get something off their chest.  When this is met with advice, whatever sense of calm was gained by venting is abruptly overridden as a perceived lecture ensues.  Unfortunately, people are not great fans of quiet space and offering advice is the quickest way to fill that space.  Advice should only be given when it is asked for, and even then one should consider if one has the knowledge to offer sound advice.

In the advice-givers defence, sometimes it is unclear whether advice or a listening ear is being sought, and it is up to the person seeking the advice or sympathetic ear to make their needs known.  Once the advice has been received, the interaction often ends: the advice seeker leaves feeling better to varying degrees, or at least with further information to ponder on; the advice giver is left feeling mostly ‘consumed’.

Advice can only be given from our own frame of reference and there is usually some trepidation of whether our advice was well received and if it will be used.  As the advice seeker, there is some onus to let the advice giver know – at some point – what decision was made.  Particularly if the advice giver is someone regularly asked as they may feel that there is little point taking the time to consider the problem and offer some advice as it may not even be used in the decision making process.

To avoid good intentions and vulnerabilities turning into debates and arguments, advice givers and seekers must take responsibility for their roles and see the interaction to its end, which may not always be at the end of the conversation.

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