• Keeping Friends

Why would someone always offer advice?

Published: September 5, 2014 | By | 9 Replies Continue Reading
A reader always feels compelled to offer advice and tell her friends what to do—and is losing friends in the process.


How do I stop being a know-it-all, someone always trying to offer advice? There’s a bone in me that does this knee-jerk thing.

When someone tells me about a problem, I find it almost impossible not to start offering suggestions. My brain KNOWS that people often need to vent, I need to vent too, so I know how useful that is.

But me… I just jump right in there and probably p*** people off so badly. I see myself doing it all the time and I want to hit myself on the head with a hammer. I’ve even had someone complain to me that I did it and to be honest, with him, I did because he seemed to just want to whine and had a zillion excuses for being ‘stuck’ and never being able to change.

I want to change though (*Even though he did deserve it! 🙂 I want NOT to feel like I must help. I think I might be trying to buy friendship or whatever.

Thanks. Hope you get a chance to talk about this on the blog.

Cheers, Sherry


Hi Sherry,

It’s somewhat ironic that you would send this problem to me! 🙂 Although I need to tell you outright that I don’t routinely offer advice to people around me when I’m not writing as “The Friendship Doctor.”

While it’s not uncommon for people to ask their friends for input when they are struggling with problems, this usually happens once in a while and when it is solicited, the advice is usually appreciated.

Getting back to your problem, I’m not sure why you always find yourself in a position that makes you feel like you need to offer advice. I take it that a number of people have become upset with you for doing this or else you wouldn’t see it as a problem.

Several thoughts come to mind:

  • Are you choosing friends who have so many problems that they require advice? What do you think would happen if you didn’t rush in with advice?
  • Are you choosing friends whom you see as equals and vice versa?
  • Are you so anxious or impatient that you feel compelled to speak rather than taking the time to listen?
  • Can you try to identify people—among your current friends—who seem to have relatively few problems? If so, do they elicit your knee-jerk response as well?

Either you are choosing the wrong friends or you’ve acquired a habit that you need to break. You are right that you can’t change other people. They can only change themselves, and can only do so when they are ready to make changes. So it may be more realistic to tell someone, like this guy who complained, that you’ve already offered your opinion and you don’t want to talk about the topic over and over. Or just hear him out. Or take a break until he makes changes.

If you are aware of your problem, you are on your way towards solving it. Think about the situations that lead you to give unwelcome advice and think about some alternative things you can say or do. You can even try writing out a practice script for yourself. If you have a lapse, can you catch yourself by asking your friends to stop you if they don’t want to hear your advice?

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: Communication, KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (9)

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  1. Kim says:

    I like the question “What can I do to best support you”? I sometimes think I give too much advice myself and drive others away. It just seems that some people talk about their problems and never want to do anything about them.
    And, that drives me nuts because I think, if you have a problem why don’t you do something about it?

    I have to realize and accept that they can do whatever they wish with their problems 🙂 and just be a great listener. As well use the above question.
    To be supportive is better than to fire off all these suggestions that the person might not be ready for anyway!

    Thanks, great feedback!

  2. Ruth says:

    All of these are good and helpful comments. I would only add the tone of your voice is important. If you come across as bossy or condescending when making suggestions, it will turn people off. You might check your tone to be sure it is empathetic, and make sure you’re not interrupting them.

  3. Denise says:

    One person complained to you; now you know how he feels about it. I don’t see this as a problem unless you get annoyed looks, people telling you they don’t want advice, etc. I think it’s very common and natural to give suggestions and see how people respond. Sometimes it keeps the conversation going and people get new ideas or different perspectives. If you give advice and they don’t really respond and just keep talking, then they just want to talk. Just listen until they ask a question or change the subject.

  4. jay says:

    I find myself in that situation many times. And most of the time they seem to either not have heard me or shut me up through jokes. Most of the times I don’t understand their response.
    I try my best to help myself from talking unless asked for an advice.

  5. hanna says:

    I fulfill the need to give advice by commenting on stranger’s situations online 🙂

    I found that it was much easier to stop giving unsolicited advice to friends after I had someone do that to me. I had no idea how annoying it was!

  6. lottie says:

    Hi Sherry,
    The replies above are all good comments.Whoever vents to you must feel comfortable to choose you as the listener.Just imagine if you stood there like a “dumbo” not speaking. Or it was a matter of life or death and you looked blank! Give me someone like you any day. Feed back is always helpful. Just because you give an opinion does not mean that they have to follow your advice. You sound like a good person. Stop beating yourself up. Lottie

  7. Amy F says:

    Often asking, “what can I do to best support you?” is a good way to gauge the pulse of the person you’re talking with.

    • Nayo says:

      Oh that’s really nice, I’m gonna use that. I often offer advice because I just wish I could help. Help them get over or through whatever it is. Sometimes when I’m quiet and just listen, I feel like an a**hole, like I’m not even trying to help. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge.

    • Kim says:

      I love this question. I am going to use this all the time now. It will save me going on with solutions when the other person doesn’t want to hear them! Thanks 🙂

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