How To Give Great Advice

How To Give Great Advice

I'm lucky to have received a lot of good advice over the years... and some really bad advice, though usually it’s just badly timed. The best advice is always generous, thoughtful, and most of all - asked for. That last part is something many of us struggle with.

Rather than passing on the best advice I've ever received (which is usually very specific and might not be relevant to others) I'm sharing some helpful techniques I've gleaned from my most cherished advisors. 


  • Find out if the person asking really wants your advice, or just to be listened to. Listening with focus, and without judgement or interruption is one of the best gifts you can give.

  • Before making a suggestion ask a lot of questions so you really understand the issue.

  • Only offer advice when you have something of real value to say, and just be honest and empathetic when you don’t.

  • Make sure you're really listening, not just composing the next pithy nugget of advice in your head.

  • Advice isn't always an anecdote or suggestion, often the very best advice comes from asking perceptive questions.

  • Remind them of what they are already doing to fix the problem, even if all they’re doing is recognising it and trying to open up. At the very least they’ve started.

  • Showering someone with advice who is struggling to articulate the problem actually blocks their way, which can be disempowering and painful. Wait until they’ve told you what’s wrong, even if it takes a while.

  • You don’t have to find a solution. They have to find the solution, you’re just helping them look for it.

  • One of the very best questions you can ask is “what advice would you give someone else in this situation?”.

  • If someone’s telling you they can’t do something, don’t tell them to just do it, ask what’s holding them back. Sometimes they need to heal first.

  • Don’t talk about yourself, talk about them. What’s right for you might not be right or even relevant for others.

  • Question your motivations. Are you giving advice to make them or yourself feel better?

  • Don’t take it personally and get impatient if people don’t take your advice. They might not be ready for it, but also just because they asked you for it doesn’t mean your advice was good.

  • If someone repeatedly asks you for advice about the same thing but doesn't take it, kindly let them know they're in a loop and this isn't helping. They may need to find another more productive process.

  • If nothing you’re saying is working, try a hug.

  • Lastly, close the door at the end of the conversation. One request for advice does not give you license to give further (unasked for) advice forever after.

What else should be on this list? Feel free to add to it in the comments below.