In my journey of seeking out what the definition of masculinity is, I have observed in the conversations I have had with a multitude of men that when advice is unsolicited it is more offensive than helpful. This realization helped me figure out the times that misplaced advice seemed to be the most unwanted. So here is a list of what I have observed:
- When someone is opening up about deep life issues 99.99% of the time you just need to listen and keep your mouth shut. Over the years my desire for good conversation and personal growth has led me on a trek of encountering people and their raw, unhindered, emotional hearts. Numerous times I have had the opportunity to sit in the company of other men and watch them open up revealing real life experiences that only trusted ears were allowed to hear. The level of vulnerability they took on their shoulders deserved a medal of the greatest form. However, nothing destroyed those moments more quickly than another man taking the opportunity to spout out advice rather than just revel in the humanity being displayed and respect the man for doing something brave. When vulnerability is in the atmosphere I find that input with the sole intention of steering the person to change their hard status is completely destructive. Being human, though, we naturally want to help those we see struggling, especially if we feel we have the answer. I have found a way to satisfy this urge. Approach the person in need and say something along these lines of, “Hey, I am sorry you are going through this season (showing genuine empathy). I personally went through something similar and if you ever want support or help I would love to talk about it over a drink or food if you so desire (open a door but let them choose to go through it).” At the end of the day, your advice can wait for a better moment. So please, for the love of all that is good, hold your freaking tongue.
- When you have not established rapport with a person your advice holds no weight. I am just going to put this one out there if you do not know the person who you are trying to give advice to then just STOP. Even if you do know them but have not taken the time to build a relationship with a solid foundation, in what world do you think what you have to say is going to be welcomed with open arms? Have you ever had a doctor give you painting advice? Or an artist try and teach you how to perform a surgery? That is how out of context advice feels when rapport has not been built.
- When they didn’t ask for it odds are they aren’t ready to receive it. This might seem obvious to say but if someone does not want your input chances are when you spew out what you perceive as wisdom they will just block you out. Unsolicited advice is more offensive than I think people are aware. It has this strong implication that the advice giver is superior and knows what is best leaving the one receiving advice feeling defensive. If you truly want someone to listen to what you have to say just wait for them to ask for your opinion and even then make sure you are not forcing them to ask you for what you think, THAT IS EVEN WORSE!
- When advice is given in a demeaning tone the chances are they won't listen to you. I am the youngest of four kids and if there is something I despise it is feeling talked down to. So here is a little tip, when someone asks you for advice make sure the language you use does not make them feel belittled. Statements like, “If you had only done this…” or “I told you so…” are never a safe place to start an unhostile conversation. Making statements that begin with an “I” are best. Also, even the way you chime into a conversation to give some theoretical input can set the whole tone for how the statement will come across. Take a breath, be humble and relaxed, and encourage and respect the target of the advice.
These four situations are all times I truly believe when you shouldn’t give advice. Life is full of ups and downs so I think we could all pitch in and make the world a better place by getting better at giving advice at the appropriate times.
What are your thoughts? How do you think advice should be given?