Why don’t people listen to our advice

We’re asking the wrong question. We should instead ask – Why do we feel the need to give advice? To understand this, let’s look at Joan and Gavin, a happily married couple.

Joan came home after a rough day.

“It’s not fair, Gavin; they chose me to deliver the report again.”

“The other associates never do it as much as me. Dianne hasn’t even done it once. I’m sick of getting loaded with the extra work.” She added.

“Just tell the boss you’re not doing it,” Gavin said.

“I shouldn’t have to, Gavin.”

“I know, but there’s nothing else you can do. Have you tried getting someone else to let the boss know?” Gavin added.

“That’s not the point! It isn’t fair. It always happens?”

“Can’t you just email the office? That way, everyone will know for the future?” He told her.

“You don’t understand; it’s not that simple. Anyway, I just told you! It’s not fair, and it’s not my responsibility Gavin!”

“Well, what do you want me to do about it then? You obviously don’t want my help.”


Listen. Joan wants you to Listen.

Man or woman, we all do it. We try to solve people’s problems. We dispense unsolicited advice when what they really want is far easier. They want to be heard, listened to, and understood.

Here is why we should keep our advice but lend our ears.

Don’t discount their feelings.

When we immediately jump to problem-solving mode, we skip the most important step of support: Giving the other person permission to have their emotions.

Skipping to problem-solving mode says to the other person: “Don’t be upset or angry; that’s silly and a waste of time. What’s it accomplishing?”

We discount their emotions.

We aren’t robots; we are humans. Emotions don’t always make sense, but unless we can openly experience and express them, we get frustrated and feel worse.

Let them be human – let them experience their emotions. Next time you have an urge to jump into advice, stop and empathise. Tell them they have every right to feel that way. 

Don’t put a lid on the bottle.

When we jump straight to a solution, the person misses out on expressing pent-up frustrations and thoughts. Talking through issues helps remove their burden from our minds. Only focusing on the solutions doesn’t let the person talk through their concern. When the problem is pent up and festering, solutions are wasted. 

Remember, a person telling you their issue is less about what you have to say and more about them processing and dealing with it. Let them take the lid off now; otherwise, it will come off louder the next time they experience a shake.

Don’t be an echo

Do you wonder why sometimes, the more advice you give, the more frustrated a person gets?

It’s the same reason we hate the question, “Did you try restarting it?” every time the computer breaks. Yes, of course, you tried restarting the computer. It’s the first thing you did. 

It’s the same with people’s problems. They will almost always know what they should do better than us. While they spent the last day mulling it over, we were only told a minute ago. 

Many of our suggestions are repeating what they already know. Instead, the other person wants us to listen, to allow them to feel their emotions and process the situation.

And if we receive any anger towards our suggestions or advice, it isn’t because they’re bad. It is because every suggestion denies them the opportunity to deal with their feelings. 

Is advice bad?

No. Often, it’s important to give the person advice. Without our parents’ or elders’ advice, we would repeat their mistakes. At times, the other person is so wrapped up in their problem that they miss an obvious solution. 

Their emotions may be so strong they stop them from taking necessary action.

Advice can be good, but how should we deliver it?

Here are a few tips to help navigate advice.

The Advice toolkit

Listen.

Always listen and let the person say what they need.

Support.

Show them that their emotions and thoughts are justified. Acknowledge their feelings and empathise with their situation. 

Ask.

Ask what they’re thinking of doing. When you do this, you avoid repeating advice that they already know. It also gives them an opportunity to work through their problem out loud. 

Proof Read.

Before giving any advice, be sure it comes from a genuine place of concern and care. Without realising it, we often give well-meaning advice more for ourselves than others. Be sure the advice is for them and not us.

Get permission.

Ask if they’re happy to hear what you think. By asking permission, we’re not talking at them with unsolicited advice but instead with them as a team. 

When we ask for permission, we increase the likelihood of our advice being heard. By saying yes, the other person consciously chooses to listen to our advice.

You can give excellent advice, but it will fall on deaf ears if unwanted!

Don’t get offended.

You might get shot down. Don’t take it to heart. Their attitude to your advice is not a reflection of the advice. Instead, it expresses their frustration with their situation.

When we listen and take the time to ask ourselves, “Is this advice necessary,” that’s when a person hears us. 

If we aren’t listening to them, how are they supposed to hear us?

Why do people refuse to listen to our advice?

Because we refuse to listen to them.

And always remember never to allow yourself to become a punching bag. Being in pain is never a reason to hurt someone else. 

Published in Self Improvement, Learning, Psychology, Relationships
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