Stage 3 of Giving Advice: Is it kind?

Stage 3 of Giving Advice: Is it kind?

“The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent about whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.”


In stage 2 we made sure that our advice was good. That’s the “what” of giving advice. Stage 3 looks at the “how” using the third Sufi principle – “Is it kind?”

Be positive and encouraging.

Adversity can help one grow. Look for the positive things that can be gained. At a minimum, it’s the end of frustration; at a maximum, it’s the thrill of a new strategic challenge.

Forget the criticisms, judgments, and reprimands. Now is not the time, if there ever is one. Instead, be compassionate, upbeat and positive. Emphasize the things they have going for them.

Recognize their strengths and build them into the action plan. What skills do they already have that will be an asset? How about their attitude? Help them to recall times when their enthusiasm, dedication or energy led to success. They can do it again!

Be honest and kind.

Remember to follow the Sufi checklist. Before commenting, answer “yes” to each question.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it necessary to bring up?
  3. Is it kind?

Feelings may already be hurt. It’s better to be honest than to lie, but don’t add more salt to the wound. Aim for no additional pain caused by your remarks. That may be difficult since the listener is likely at a low point and very sensitive. Follow the Sufi checklist to minimize extra grief.

It may be hard to be funny, but humour with a kind edge could make you both laugh. Roberta Maisel in “All Grown Up: Living Happily Ever After with Your Adult Children” discusses several embarrassing situations and how a well-placed humorous comment gets the point across while still showing your love. For example: “You’ll never get nominated for president with that nose ring. It says so in the Constitution.”

Offer ideas without insisting.

You have worked together to come up with reasonable alternatives. No matter how empathic you are, the person requesting advice is in the best position to decide what is right for him or her. Let them choose.

Ask for their opinion and feelings.

Without being pushy, stay focused on the next step – assessing alternatives. Encourage the listener to close the loop. Ask for feedback on the alternatives. Hopefully the listener’s logic and emotions are both at play. Feelings are very important since they will provide the impetus to move ahead.

What do you do if the recipient is negative verbally or through body language? Something about your ideas or advice is not being well-received. Should you start again at the beginning and apply Stage 1 principles to each reason for the negativity? Should you change the subject because you are “getting into hot water” and your advice is no longer wanted? Trust your intuition.

Know when to give up.

Intuition – what is it? I can feel the need for another topic to blog about!

Trust your gut feelings. Effective living is about “internalizing” as you try to understand what’s happening and determine what to do. Listen to your gut; it will tell you if you should keep your thoughts to yourself and change the subject. If you are still “connected” to the recipient, it will signal you to start all over again as in Stage 1.

Accept and respect their decision.

Only the person involved knows what’s right for them or what they’re capable of. If they don’t follow what you think and feel is the best direction, accept it.

Keep the entire process confidential to earn and maintain the respect of the recipient.

Let them know you’ll be there to support them.

Stay connected and interested. Show your on-going support by checking in once in a while. Building close relationships based on trust and caring is a gift that will bless your future.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”

Henri Nouwen, Dutch Christian Priest, Writer (1932 – 1996)

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