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When Your Spouse Asks for Advice

Don't Say You Should and Other Tips


Giving Advice
Photo: Andreas Kuehn / The Image Bank / Getty Images
We not only like the title of Ken Solin's article "Giving Advice: You Should Never Say 'You Should,'" we also like this comment he said about giving unsolicited advice.
Ken Solin: "...giving unsolicited advice is a sure way to erode trust and drive people away."
Source: Ken Solin. "Giving Advice: You Should Never Say 'You Should.'" HuffingtonPost.com. 2/21/2012.

As Solin mentions, the key in giving advice is whether or not the advice is asked for. People stop by this site, read our articles, and email us because they are interested in news, information, and advice about marriage and marital issues. So here's our advice about the words "you should" and other tips on how to give advice to your spouse.

Advice on How to Give Advice to Your Spouse

  • Whether it is advice on how to do something like play golf or how to handle a situation, refrain from giving advice unless it is requested by your spouse. You could make things worse if you give unsolicited advice.
  • Before giving advice, listen to your spouse's concerns and ask questions to clarify the situation.
  • Only give advice that you would follow yourself.
  • When giving advice, try to speak from your heart. Be honest.
  • Stay away from the phrase "you should" and use "have you considered" instead. Avoid appearing holier-than-thou.
  • Show empathy and sensitivity when you are giving advice. Don't be sarcastic.
  • Although humor is important in your marriage, when it comes to giving advice, teasing is not a good idea.
  • If you feel defensive or hostile about the issue you and your spouse are discussing, don't give advice.
  • Although the eye roll is inappropriate, if your spouse does the eye roll thing when you give advice, don't over react to it. Ask instead if your spouse is feeling exasperated, or frustrated, or just disagrees with what you've said.
  • Watch your own body language so that you don't come across as closed, condescending, arrogant, or dominating while giving advice.
  • Michelle T. Sterling: "The most significant fact you should remember is that non-verbal signals have five times the impact of verbal signals. When the verbal and the non-verbal parts of the message are congruent, the listener believes your message. If they are incongruent, usually your words are saying yes, but your body language is saying no."
    Source: Michelle Sterling. Speak to the World Without Saying a Word." Entrepreneurs.about.com via Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

  • Make sure that your advice doesn't come across as nagging, nit-picking, or criticism.
  • Be very careful when giving legal or medical advice if you are not a lawyer or doctor.
  • Don't promise or guarantee that your advice will work. It is important that your advice reveals both the potential positive results and the possible negative outcome.
  • If you don't think you have any advice that will be helpful to your spouse, say so.
  • Give advice that is non-threatening and not offensive. You don't want your spouse to feel stupid.
  • Accept that your spouse may not take your advice. If your mate rejects what you consider good advice, the difference of opinion is not something to argue over.
Kerry Sulkowicz: "Ask for follow-up. Not only does it show you care if you ask your advice-seeker to let you know how it goes, but it also conveys that you have a stake in giving good advice. Whether or not they take you up on the offer, it will leave them feeling even better about you and more confident in acting on what you've shared."
Source: Kerry Sulkowicz. "7 Tips for Giving Advice That People Will Follow." CBSNews.com. 3/24/2010.

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