How to Give Great Advice

8 Min Read

There is an art to giving advice. When you have mastered the art, people will listen to what you say and come back for more. Both you and those who consult you will benefit from the relationship.

Benefits of advising others

Professionals are paid very well for their expert advice. But there are other reasons for giving advice

  • Parents advise their children out of love and concern for their welfare.
  • Senior managers counsel junior executives because of idealism, friendship and good sound business. Just knowing that other people want your advice boosts your own self-esteem.

Advising is an art

To be a good adviser it is not enough to provide information, no matter how accurate. You must be able to form relationships with others that can help them find the best solutions to their specific problems.

Example: A good parent knows what his/ her children should do and must be able to talk to them in a way that shows he understands their concerns

How to give advice

Good advice is the product of a three-step process

• Understand the other person’s particular problem and objectives

Your goal is not to demonstrate your own superior wisdom, but to help someone else solve his problem. To do that, always listen closely to what the other person says. Try to discover how he got into the current situation exactly what problem he wants you to help him solve…how he hopes to benefit from your advice.

To help another person open up to you: Break the ice by starting off with something relevant about yourself encourages him to discuss the problem in his own way don’t interact anticipate never suggest a solution before you understand the problem.

Example: An unhappy wife tells you about her husband’s inattention and prolonged absences from home and asks your advice. Don’t immediately tell her to change all the house locks, empty out the joint checking account and call a divorce lawyer. If you draw her out some more, you may find that she really wants to rebuild her relationship with her husband, whose troubled business is threatened with bankruptcy.

Important: Understand your precise role. Before you start dispensing advice, make sure the other person really wants it. He may just be looking for a sympathetic listener. If the other person wants your advice, determine whether you are qualified to give it

Ask yourself: Do I have the knowledge, skills and time I need to help this person?

Example: Martha often helps other people fill in standard tax returns. While helping a recently widowed friend, she discovers a tax problem outside her experience. Martha should not just go ahead and guess what her friend should do. She should tell her to get professional assistance. If the friend has never dealt with financial matters, Martha could help her find the right adviser.

• Identify and evaluate the options and explain them as clearly as possible


Don’t try to be a solo performer and don’t always apply your favorite solution to a particular problem. You may know more about the technical details of the problems other people face but they know better than you how well any proposed solution will fit them.

Example: If a couple about to retire asks your advice, don’t automatically tell them to sell their big house, invest the profits and move to a small condo. They may prefer, for instance, to keep the house so they can put up many relatives and friends who come to visit.

• Let the other person make the decision

After you give your best advice to the person who consulted you, remember that he not you will have to live with the consequences.

That does not mean you wash your hands of any responsibility. In most cases, you should leave the decision entirely up to the person who asked your advice. But it is appropriate for you to intervene in the decision if he asks explicitly what you would do or wants to do something immoral or very risky or does not understand the likely outcome of a particular choice.

Ethical rules of advising

Do no harm. The person who has chosen you as an adviser thinks you will be able to help him. Make sure before you give any advice that following it will not cause him harm. Give pure advice. Your job is to help someone else make the right decision, not to benefit yourself.

A good adviser is loyal to his client and committed to giving the best advice. He shows respect to the person who consulted him, is careful to use his full attention and skill to find the best solution and is reliable in keeping his promises.

Important: As an adviser, you need your own adviser someone trustworthy to give you counsel on difficult problems.

Know when to stop

When you have given the advice the other person needs to solve his problem, step aside. Reasons to quit…

  • The individual who approached you has reached the goal he originally sought.

Make sure you understand the goal clearly from the very beginning of the task.

Example: If your children ask your opinion about a house they are thinking about buying, do not assume that if they purchase it they will want your unsolicited advice on how to furnish it.

•You are in over your head

If this happens to you, explain the problem frankly like Martha in the earlier example, who agreed to help her friend with her taxes but then found that the job exceeded her knowledge and her capabilities.

•Your situation changes

You may want to retire from the role of advice-giver or just don’t have the time or energy needed to keep advising someone.

If he is continuously relying on your advice, give him adequate notice that you are no longer available and if he really needs good advice try to steer him to someone who can take your place.

Bottom line

People who ask for your advice are really paying you a compliment. They are showing very high regard for your expertise and judgment. Make sure you repay it by giving the best advice possible

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