Giving advice to anyone means that you either lose or break even
Ernie Zelinsky, The 101 Really Important Things
One day German poet Otto Erich Hartleben consulted a doctor about his health problems. The doctor advised Hartleben to quit smoking cigarettes and to stop drinking alcohol. The doctor added, "This visit will cost you three marks." "I'm not paying you," returned Hartleben, "because I'm not taking your advice."
Undoubtedly, you have found this out through experience: Most people won't follow advice- regardless of how good it is- as was the case with poet Otto Erich Harleben. Your advice may very well be helpful, but if it means that the recipient of the advice must put in some work and effort, he or she will likely discard it. Giving advice may not only be a waste of your time and energy- it can be dangerous as well.
It is particularly dangerous to offer advice when the person hasn't asked for it. Some people will refuse to take advice regardless of how good it is and how noble your intentions are. Your relationship with them can get strained to the limit if you persist. People may not realize that you are trying to help them. On the contrary, they may think that you are highly judgmental and are trying to make them wrong. Your advice is likely to be ignored because most people don't want to admit they are wrong.
Trying to solve other people's problems with your unsolicited advice is as futile as trying to change people. It's best not to get immersed in other people's problems, including those of your spouse, friends and co-workers. Trying to solve their problems is tantamount to saying they aren't capable of doing it on their own. Benjamin Franklin may have given us the best advice possible about giving unsolicited advice:
It may be dangerous to give advice even if it is solicited. The problem is the advice we give others may be the opposite of what they expect or desire.
"When a man comes to me for advice," quipped Josh Billings, "I find out the kind of advice he wants, and I give it to him. "Giving advice that people expect may be a good strategy at times, but it can be dangerous in certain situations. Taking into account that many people don't have a complete and sensible appreciation of their own predicaments, it follows that they may in fact expect advice that will end up hurting their cause.
Even giving good advice can get you in trouble- particularly when it involves the truth. Oscar Wilde wrote,
There is a lot to be said about telling the truth- but telling the truth in many cases is on the first rung of the living- dangerously ladder.
For instance, whenever a friend asks you how she can improve the meal that she just cooked for you, it is wise not to mention the twenty things you would have done differently. Otherwise, you could end up without an opportunity to eat any more of the souffle because you will be wearing it over the expensive shirt you wore for the first time.
All things considered, giving advice to anyone means that you either lose or break even. You seldom win. Whenever people accept your advice, and it turns out to be helpful, people likely won't acknowledge you for it. They may not even remember that you gave it to them. Whenever they accept your advice, and it turns out to be harmful, people won't forget who gave it to them. They will probably even resent you for having given them bad advice.
Summing up, it's best to avoid getting involved in people's personal affairs, especially if you haven't been asked. As a well- balanced individual you shouldn't need to inflate your ego by giving unsolicited advice. If you are going to give any, however, advise the person that it's best to avoid freely accepting advice from anyone else- and that includes you.
Whenever you feel compelled to respond to a request for advice, say it simply. Make ti short. Don't rant and rave. Even so, on extremely sensitive matters, be sure to duck when flying objects start coming your way.