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  • Writer's pictureJuliana

Why Advice Isn't Always Connecting

Have you ever received advice from someone and instead of being able to appreciate what they shared, you just end up angry? Or maybe embarrassed?

That's because advice is one of those other conversational responses, and receiving it isn't always a connecting experience. But why isn't it connecting? Usually, the party relaying the advice has good enough intentions, and probably is just sharing because they care and want to see you succeed. Surely that would be connecting, right? Well... no.

Don't get me wrong; sometimes advice can be connecting, but typically only when the person on the receiving end is open and ready for it. Otherwise, advice, inherently, is a big ole judgment.

Yep. There. I said it. A piece of advice is a judgment. Think about it this way: if someone is giving you advice on something, they are implying (or maybe even explicitly stating) that whatever approach you are taking is flawed in some way and that they know how to fix it more so or better than you currently do. They are swooping in with advice to "save" you, because, well, you are in need of saving, you helpless fool!

Additionally, sometimes a piece of advice might not meet one's needs for understanding or being seen. Instead, it can be interpreted as dismissive or an oversimplification of one's challenges.

Here is an example: You are feeling overwhelmed with work and family responsibilities. You haven't been able to get much sleep lately due to your neighbors partying into the wee hours of the night. You missed an important detail of something you were working on and there were consequences. Your co-worker then gives you this advice: "Maybe you should start managing your time better, and then you wouldn't be so stressed out and overwhelmed all of the time".

The "What did you just say to me?" look

Of course that isn't connecting! Instead, it can be perceived as condescending, rude, annoying, or even preachy. Yes, those are all judgments as well - furthering the disconnection.

So what do we do with this?

I'm about to launch into advice about what to do when receiving disconnecting advice... are you ready? (If not, you can certainly stop reading). If you are the recipient of unwarranted and unwelcome advice, I think the first step is to give yourself empathy. Notice what feelings come up for you; notice what thoughts come up for you and see if you can parcel out the judgments from the facts; and notice what needs are alive in you. This internal process alone can lessen any charge you may have towards the other person.

Then, if you're up for it, you can give the other person empathy. Maybe it sounds something like this: "When I hear you say that I should start managing my time better, I'm guessing you are feeling concerned for me, and you really care. Maybe you just want ease and peace for me, is that it?"

Finally, if you would like the unwarranted advice to stop, you could express and make a request. That might look like this: "When you gave me that advice, I noticed feeling frustrated and even more overwhelmed. I think I'm really just needing some consideration and understanding. I'm also guessing that giving me advice might be a strategy for you to meet needs for contribution or maybe effectiveness. In the future when you want to share advice with me, would you mind taking the time to listen to what I am going through first, and then ask if I am willing to hear advice? I think that would really help me to be able to receive it in the way you were hoping."

And then, on the other side of this, if you want to give someone advice but you also want them to have emotional safety, try giving them empathy first, then ask if they are open to some advice. When someone has an experience of being fully heard and understood, they are typically much more open to other conversational responses like advice. Additionally, by asking them first, you give them choice! They now get to decide if they are in a place to hear advice, and that really does make a huge difference.

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