free adviceAdvice is a tricky thing.  Often you need it but aren’t comfortable asking for it because to do so means a level of vulnerability.  Other times you don’t actually want advice when you talk about challenges, you just need for the other person to listen in order to be able to draw your own conclusions.

On the advice giving side, in most cases you give advice because you want to help.  You believe you have information or insight the other person doesn’t and feel supportive by offering suggestions.

The problem with that line of thinking is that the rationale for offering the advice has little to do with what the recipient needs.  The focus is all on how the advice giver can offer “value” and be viewed as valuable.  But the unsolicited advice giver doesn’t get to decide if there is value there. The recipient does.

I’ve had people who’ve known me for five minutes assume my motivations for making decisions and advise me why those motivations are wrong.

I’ve witnessed people giving business advice to people they’ve literally just met. At a networking event I was the third person in a triad where one woman’s first words after “nice to meet you” were, “This is how you should be introducing yourself.”  I saw the recipient blanch at this rather insulting tidbit of unsolicited information and quickly move on to another group.

In another mastermind-type meeting where the attendees were all new and gathered for the first meeting, one participant informed another how she should be marketing her business. This was before she had any information about what the business owner already had in place, or had tried in the past. The advice giver came off as an arrogant know-it-all.

As I said before, in most cases the unwanted advice giver’s heart is in the right place. Sort of. But wanting to appear knowledgeable and savvy can be at the expense of others.  When you give advice without having any background information the risk is great that the recipient will feel bulldozed and even resentful. Especially if the advice is on an elementary level – which means the advice giver assumes the recipient is a beginner or not very bright.

Do you know how to tell if someone wants advice?  They’ll ask for it.

When asked for advice, it’s vital to make certain there is a sufficient body of knowledge about the situation in order to offer relevant, targeted suggestions. Asking questions first.  Your own initial thoughts may change based on the new information gathered. Asking questions has the added benefit of letting the other person know you’re truly interested in giving a thoughtful response.


  1. Michele Burghardt on June 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Hi Mary
    I just wanted to say thank you for your last email blast about being angry. I had a disagreement with someone close to me and we hadn’t talked in two weeks. I forwarded your email to them, and it resulted in a phone call and dialogue. Now it’s all over & done with. It helped break the ice. Thank again. Michele

  2. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on June 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for letting me know that, Michele! Sure makes me happy some good came of that post.

  3. Laurie Vincent on June 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    We don’t have to worry about being publicly painted as short-sighted or selfish by an ignorant advice-giver. They are the one who looks bad. Which leads me to wonder how often I have given unsolicited advice and appeared overbearing.
    The best advice = usually no advice.

  4. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on June 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

    You’re right Laurie. I’m also working on refraining from sharing all my “brilliant so must share” advice. It may not be so brilliant so I really don’t need to share. One instance at athe time. Baby steps

  5. Chaz on April 24, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Great article! I despise unsolicited advice , what’s worse is I don’t know
    How to respond to an arrogant advise giver