5 Ways Offering Advice is Dangerous
Offering advice can be dangerous if it’s not done in the right way at the right time.
I like to use the Bible to defend my position, even when I’m wrong. Have you ever felt that way? You hang on to a scripture that seems to support your point-of-view? And I’m Bible literate. I believe in the Bible. Many people that I meet with aren’t versed in scripture.
“The way of a fool is right in his own opinion, but the one who listens to advice is wise.” Proverbs 12:15 (NET Bible)
That’s the verse I like to think about when I’m offering advice. If they would just listen to me, they would be wise. While I don’t like to think of people as “fools”, I still like to think I’m the smart one.
“The plans of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.” Proverbs 12:5
That’s the verse I like to think when someone offers me advice that I don’t want to hear. It’s not I think they are wicked, but, maybe, just wrong. I doubt what they say.
What I have in common in both situations is that I think I’m right, even when I’m wrong. Not too healthy, huh?
I have come to recognize that others think the same way that I do. They think they are right. When I offer advice, it could be that they think I’m wrong.
None of us like to see someone in pain. When we see someone that is hurting we want to help them out. But, often our advice isn’t appreciated.
There are five ways that giving advice is dangerous.
Remember the change process? It depends on where someone is in their process of change.
People move from being unaware to knowing they have a problem that’s not big enough to solve. Finally, seeing they have a problem that they decide to change.
Are they pre or post decision? Have they decided they want to change something? If not, your advice isn’t going to go over very well.
Another risk is timing. It may not be the right time. Advice works best when someone is ready to change. God is very patient. He leads us to a realization and a point of decision or repentance. If they aren’t ready to change, they may shut down.
People need to own their own part of an issue. If they are committed to changing themselves, then they have a better chance of success.
It can go like this:
Mentor: “What would happen if you validated your spouse more?”
Mentee: “Well, they we would probably more connected.”
Now they own validating their spouse.
If you tell them what to do too soon, they may not own the need to change. If it doesn’t work, they may blame you.
There was a couple that we were meeting with and they were not good at communication. They would bring up an issue and the other one was immediately triggered. They would revert into criticism and defensiveness. It would escalate. We met with them for about 10 times. At the last session, I watched them resolve an issue without our help.
It worked because we didn’t solve any of their issues. We focused on understanding patterns and communication skills.
When you put yourself in the position of giving the answer to an issue, you can become dependent on you for change. They may not own it themselves. That may feel really good to you, but it could cause them harm. You are not helping them to find the answers for themselves.
When you meet with couples, they should eventually be able to solve their own issues.
The Real Issue
It’s easy to rush into help when we don’t really understand the underlying issue.
For example, a couple may have financial problems. It may not be just problems with a budget, but how they talk about money. If you rush into help, it might cover up the underlying issue. If you explore it more, you may find out that it’s about something else.
Jumping in too quickly may cover up the real issue.
- Understand the change process – Be sure you understand how people change. Are they aware of the problem? Have they decided it’s a big enough problem to make changes? Are they post decision? Have someone decided they want advice?
- Help people to think through their own solutions – If someone can understand their own issues and come to their own conclusions, that’s fantastic.
- Use the tools – Marriage education does provide best practice tools that can help a couple to improve.
Advice at the right time to something that you want to change can be very helpful. At the wrong time or about something that you haven’t decided to want to change, can be dangerous.