What Does It Really Mean To Give Good Advice (And How Do You Know If You're Not)?

Advice is an incredibly useful tool and can help you to better navigate a situation, whether you're giving it or receiving it. Focusing on different perspectives and bringing your scope onto the bigger picture can help put things into perspective. However, some people struggle when it comes to flipping the situation and giving advice. Even if giving advice comes naturally to you, it doesn't always mean it is delivered correctly. Whether your skills are fine-tuned in this area or not, making mistakes can be all too easy — especially if you're feeling frustrated. So, what does it really mean to give good advice?

Thankfully, we'll look at some reassuring signs that you're doing well. Don't worry — we're also looking at some of those gnarly bad indicators. With some practice and empathy, you should be well on your way to becoming an A-rated advice giver (at least, we hope). So, what is there to know? 

You can tap into other people's emotions

So, how exactly do you know if you're giving good advice? One great way of identifying if you excel in this area is if you have a knack for tuning into other people's emotions, putting the focus on them rather than yourself. When you focus too much on yourself, you may give bad advice, which can be an easy mistake. Shifting your focus allows you to listen without making presumptions, which helps you offer tailored advice. 

For example, speaking to The New York Times, author of "Steal Like An Artist" Austin Kleon explains: "My M.O. is to share things that I've learned along the way in the spirit of, 'This worked for me, maybe it'll work for you, too.'" This may help the receiver of your advice feel seen and understood, whether it be your friend or family. Likewise, the person listening to your feedback could feel like they're not as alone with what they're experiencing. Being empathetic and understanding plays a huge part in being able to give good advice. If this sounds familiar, you can rest assured that you will likely do a good job.

You're not giving biased feedback

Another sign that you're good at giving advice is that you never give biased opinions. Instead, you take the time to let them talk so you can both navigate the situation together. This skill is key if you want to help someone as much as you can. In fact, psychologist Reeshad Dalal tells Entrepreneur that "sometimes, having a 'good impact' involves deliberately opting not to persuade." This neutral ground can help people to gather logical information to approach the issue. On the other hand, forcing your bias on someone may only end up pushing them away.

This tip is also useful if you're giving advice to a friend in a toxic relationship and could even help them to feel more comfortable around you. This is arguably one of the most critical elements when giving any advice. If someone is uncomfortable, they're less likely to open up.

Bad comprehension can lead to bad advice

When you're giving advice, you have to be very self-aware in order to be successful. For some, this comes naturally. If you don't understand the point someone is trying to make, your bad comprehension can lead to poor advice — exactly what you don't want. Speaking to Well + Good, therapist Hope Kelaher notes that you shouldn't "[make] assumptions about someone else's experience." Resist jumping to conclusions, especially if you have a similar experience, and listen carefully to everything they say. Listening is one of the most important parts of giving advice; therefore patience is critical.

If you feel as though you are guilty of this sometimes, take the time to self-reflect on how you advise your friends. If you suspect you might be a bad friend, there are easy ways to turn this around. Taking this time may help you to better understand where the disconnect is between you and the person that you're giving advice to. Once you've done this, any future discussions should feel much more manageable.

Unwanted advice can make a conversation uncomfortable

Just because you feel compelled to give advice doesn't mean the situation calls for it. For example, the chief clinical officer at Pinnacle Treatment Centers, Lori Ryland, PhD, tells Shondaland that "if you have given unsolicited advice, you may notice tension enter the conversation," which may be a little awkward for both parties. Instead, try to take things down a notch to make the other individual feel more relaxed. Although it feels like you're giving good advice, that emotional tension indicates that you may not be delivering your advice in the best way that you could.

However, don't let this put you off giving advice altogether. While it can be discouraging to feel as though you've done a bad job, it will allow you to look for better signals in the future. Instead, learn how to take the correct approach. As a result, your advice should be generally better received.