wikiHow to Give People Advice

The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself. --Oscar Wilde

First of all, make sure that the person who is talking to you is actually soliciting advice. He or she may just want you to listen and be a good friend, seeking instead understanding, empathy, and compassion. Don't assume that everyone wants advice. You may have some insight into the problem(s),but you really need to listen attentively to a person first for a very long time to understand the situation. If, and only if, your friend actually ASKS for advice should you then furnish it.

It is a great honor to be asked for advice, but it is also a big responsibility. Good advice can help people make sound decisions or find the right path in life, while bad advice can have disastrous consequences. Fortunately, with a little forethought you can weed out the good from the


  1. Image titled Give People Advice Step 1
    Listen to the person asking you for advice. Every situation is unique, so never assume you know all you need to know about a problem. Listen carefully to the person who wants advice, and learn as much as possible about this situation. If you need clarification, ask questions. Being an active listener will not only help you give good advice, it will also increase the chances that the person will take your advice.
  2. Image titled Give People Advice Step 2
    Put yourself in the advisee's shoes. Try to imagine yourself in the other person's situation. If you've been in a similar situation, think about what you learned, but don't rely solely on your experiences to give advice--imagine that you are giving yourself advice for the unique circumstances that the other person is facing.
  3. Image titled Give People Advice Step 3
    Think about the consequences of taking your advice. While you're at it, think about the consequences of not taking your advice. If there's no significant difference between the results of those two scenarios, your advice might not be bad, but it's not useful either. Ditto if the action you advise is impossible. If you can envision the path you suggest leading to a worse result than an alternative path would, your advice probably is bad.
    • Take your time. When possible, think long and hard about all the possible courses of action and consider the pros and cons (or the benefits and costs) of each. This is especially important for more complex problems.
    • Think about both the short term and long term consequences of your advice. Very important decisions are usually very important because of their long term effects. Think as far down the road as possible.
  4. Image titled Give People Advice Step 4
    Empathize. Many matters require sensitivity and thoughtfulness. If you really try to put yourself in the other person's shoes (as suggested above), empathy will probably develop naturally. Even so, be very careful about how you word your advice and be sensitive to the other person's feelings and emotional state. Giving advice is more than a logical exercise. It usually involves helping a person sort through conflicting emotions as much as conflicting choices.
  5. Image titled Give People Advice Step 5
    Brainstorm with the person. Sometimes there is no clear-cut right answer to a problem. In this case, try to help the person mull over all the alternatives so that he or she can reach a conclusion together with you or on their own. Even for very simple questions, it can be beneficial to help the person develop his or her own advice, if only for the reason that he or she is more likely to take it.
  6. Image titled Give People Advice Step 6
    Be honest. If your advised course of action has potential drawbacks, tell the person about them. If you don't really feel qualified or knowledgeable enough about something to give advice on it, be honest about this fact. Your goal should not be to blindly lead the person, but rather to help him or her make a good decision, so don't act like a salesman.
  7. Image titled Give People Advice Step 7
    Set a good example. If you advise one thing but do the opposite, your advice will be seen as phony and hypocritical. If you do as you say, however, people will be more likely to respect your advice.
  8. Image titled Give People Advice Step 8
    Understand that the person may not take your advice. Just because someone asks for your advice, they are not obligated to take it. Realize that the other person almost always knows more about their particular situation and desires than you do, so you can never be sure that your advice is really the best for them. Understand that people will sometimes ask advice just in order to bounce ideas off of you, and don't be surprised if a person rejects even good advice and decides to make his or her own mistake. Live with it, and let the person live with his or her decision.


  • Think twice before giving unsolicited or unwanted advice. If someone doesn't ask you for advice, it can be considered offensive to give advice, and you may strain your relationship with that person. What's more, unwanted advice will usually go unheeded. That said, if someone close to you is about to make a very bad mistake, you should advise them against it. If someone is considering doing something that could be imminently harmful to themselves or others, you should contact the proper authorities.
  • Don't give advice that you yourself would not follow. This is a very good test of the strength and feasibility of your advice.
  • Never be afraid to admit that you don't have any good advice about a particular situation. If you have no advice to give but still want to help the person, suggest that the person consult someone with more knowledge about the situation.
  • Almost all advice is in some sense subjective. Be sure to separate facts from opinion, but feel free to give the person both.


  • If someone tells you something confidential don't talk about it to others.
  • Refrain from giving advice that you're not qualified to give, such as legal or medical advice (if you're not a legal or health professional). It's OK to share information that you've learned about, say, a particular disease or law, but make sure the person knows your qualifications (or lack thereof) when you give them the advice.
  • Be sure to consider any conflict of interest between you and the advisee. If you stand to gain by convincing someone to do something that is not in his or her best interests, you should probably not give that person advice unless you can be completely honest with him or her about your own motivations.

Article Info

Categories: Leadership and Mentoring