The Downside of Offering Advice—and How You May Be Offering Advice Without Realizing it

Have you ever been asked for advice and then been frustrated that the person requesting it paid no attention to it?

Have you ever offered advice and been blamed for the consequences when your advice was taken?

Finally (and most insidiously) have you ever been asked for, or offered, advice and then felt like the person on the receiving end resented you– even though they might have asked you for, and taken, your advice? 

If so, you’re not imagining it. It’s more than likely that they did resent you.


Because offering, and giving, advice often sets up a dynamic where one person is left feeling inferior to the other.

What to do?

Here, I enrolled in Edward Lowe’s Peerspectives Facilitator Training and it was fascinating.

What was one of my vital takeaways?

The distinction between clarifying questions and advice-giving questions—and how often we give advice with the questions we ask each other.

(Because one of the principles of a Peerspectives roundtable is that you can only ask clarifying questions.)

What does an advice-giving question sound like?

  • “What if you tried….?”
  • “How about…?”
  • “Couldn’t you just…?
  • “Have you thought about….”

Do you see how easy it is?

You think you’re just asking a question but you are, in fact, suggesting a solution and that—by definition—infers that you think you know more than the person voicing their dilemma.

You see how that might make the person on the receiving end a little grumpy.

As you can imagine, the upshot of all this is that we at Cole Media Management are working hard on only asking clarifying questions.

(For more on clarifying questions, see next week’s Wow. At which time you’ll also see the interior of the boxcar pictured, above. You may stay in them when you visit the Edward Lowe Foundation—So cool.)

In the interim—if you’re intrigued—notice how often you might have been offering others advice (and inadvertently making them grumpy) without realizing it.


For more on how to extricate yourself from others’ advice, take a look at “May I Share Something With You?”