I’m embarrassed to say that it’s taken me most of my life to understand this, but it’s true. Except in very rare situations, giving people advice who haven’t asked for it just doesn’t work – no matter how noble your intentions. In fact, they will often be offended and your very relationship can be damaged.

When my daughters were growing up I would see them making a mistake and offer my advice. Did they take it? Rarely. More often than not, they were offended. My wife Kathleen was the same way. Unsolicited advice almost always seems judgmental and is therefore unappreciated. So after a lot of fiery darts being flung my way, here’s a few things I’ve learned:

1. If they don’t ask, don’t give advice. Simple as that.

2. This applies to just about everything, short of stopping people from stepping in front of a moving car.

3. It doesn’t mean people are ungrateful, but people are often embarrassed when reminded of their mistakes or shortcomings. In my experience, most people actually need to see the end result of their wrong thinking. When that happens, it makes a much more powerful and lasting impression.

4. Your advice will be more effective when they’ve seen their mistake, and then come to you.

5. This doesn’t mean you abandon anyone. It simply means you watch, track their progress, keep quiet, and then be ready to answer their questions in a positive, inspiring way.

The impact of your advice isn’t just based on the insight, it’s also based on the timing.

Anyone else found that to be true?


Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Their Credibility and How We Get It Back.” Find out more at www.philcooke.com.

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