Advice for Your Advice: Some Do's and Don't's

By: Emily Algar, Regular Contributor


It seems that everyone has an opinion about everything from what books you should read, to where you should go holiday. Some opinions stray into more personal territory: what you should be looking for in a partner, to thoughts on your life plan.

I have just finished my MA and have absolutely no clue about the kind of career I want to explore. However, that doesn’t seem to stop everyone else from voicing their opinion about where I should live, what jobs I should apply for, and why my current, albeit vague, plans are not good enough.

Fair enough if I ask your opinion about what I should be doing and then I don’t like your advice, but apparently merely uttering the words “I don’t know what I want to do” instigates an open season on advice giving. Some of the advice I have gotten has been heartfelt and sensitive whilst other pieces of advice have been from people feeling that they should have an answer for me. All of these opinions have been well and good and some of it really useful. However I have had a lot of people not so much advising me, but right out telling me what I should do. This is not cool!


First, it’s impolite and sometimes comes across as being quite aggressive, and second it can leave the person feeling like their opinions are not important. The “Zen” me knows that the people who react like this are just forcing their own insecurities or missed opportunities onto me, but the “Sensitive” me goes into full blown panic mode.

Like with everything in life there are ways to do things and ways that should be avoided at all costs. My latest experience in the realm of advice giving, which quite honestly left me running for the hills, has inspired me to create a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts:”

The “Do’s”:

  1.  Wait to see if the person asks for your advice or opinion. If they don’t, the safest option is to remain silent concerning their life plans.
  2. Listen.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself: What would be helpful for you to hear if you were them?
  4. Ask questions. There may be a perfectly legitimate reason why they don’t want to go into a specific profession or move to a certain city.
  5. Finally at the end of the day, even if you may not agree with their ideas or the direction their headed, remember it’s their journey not yours.

 The “Don’ts”:

  1.  Do not assume that when someone says they don’t know have a plan, they want to hear yours. They may just be keeping quiet about something in the works OR they may just be taking a career/education break.
  2. Do not tell the person what you think they SHOULD do and continue to do so, even when the person tells you that what you’re suggesting just isn’t their cup of tea.
  3. Do not get in their face and start acting like you’re an expert on their life.
  4. Do not dismiss their opinions and viewpoints just because they don’t fit in with your ideas about life – N.B. it hurts and leaves the person feeling crappy.
  5. Remember just because you did it a certain way and it worked out or even if it didn’t, doesn’t mean the same applies to the other person.

Everyone's journey is deeply personal and unique to them as an individual, which may explain why those who are so eager to give advice and tell you want you SHOULD be doing, get it so spectacularly wrong. No one really knows what's going inside someone else, or what battles their fighting, so when giving advice or sharing your opinion do it wisely.


About Emily

Em_A.jpgEmily is currently studying for an MA in International Security and is interning at a PR company that works for non-profits, as well as being a regular contributor for I AM THAT GIRL. She lives for her music and dogs and has a weird obsession with lobsters and candles.





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