A while back, I wrote in "Six Steps to Getting Honest Critical Feedback" -
I think that’s true, but I still try to almost never give negative criticism to anyone, ever.
“As a general rule…people ask for advice only in order not to follow it; or if they do follow it, in order to have someone to blame for giving it.” — From Alexandre Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers”
I’ve found the vast majority of people will never take any criticism you give them, will be upset at you for criticizing them, and will dislike you even more if you were right.
I’ve gotten this wrong plenty, and still get it wrong sometimes. Most of the time, giving critical advice to someone is a very, very bad idea. I can only think of a few exceptions to that rule.
It's just a lesson borne out of experience. The vast majority of people react poorly to unsolicited advice. Even the most patient, enlightened, introspective people usually don't react well to unsolicited advice.
Oh, sure, you can share a recipe on how to cook a dish with someone, or tell them that getting a rice cooker would make their life easier. But if you advise someone to change what they're currently doing, more than 9 out of 10 times it's not going to go well. Maybe it won't be a disaster , but it's usually not a good idea.
That said, I was kind of bummed out when I wrote that. Huh, that's too bad. Is that really how the world is? Never give advice unsolicited, and also be careful even before giving solicited-for advice unless you know the person really, truly, actually wants it?
And it strikes me - unsolicited critical advice usually goes over poorly. Defense mechanisms and identity and things like that get in the way. But I think the world could probably use more unsolicited encouragement, and that rarely blows up.
So I think, if you really want to be a benevolent advice-giver, maybe lean towards encouraging people instead of advising them. Instead of, "You ought to quit your job," perhaps instead, "You know, I always thought you'd be awesome at running your own company."
Things like that. It's more subtle, much more palatable. Yeah, unsolicited critical advice is still a huge no-no, but unsolicited encouragement is good.
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