Unsolicited advice is received as judgment.
I know, you’re just trying to help. And you probably have really good advice.
But if they haven’t asked for your advice, then your attempt to share it–even when it’s helpful–makes the other person feel judged. There may be moments in someone’s life that requires a forceful intervention experience–where you don’t wait for them to ask. But think about the times you’ve offered advice before they’ve asked. Are they thanking you? Are they even doing what you recommended?
Think about your own experiences. When someone surprises you with advice, how do you feel? Sure, if you’ve asked for it, it doesn’t bother you at all. Or if you’ve set up a friendship that has a standing request for advice to be shared, then it’s no big deal. But if you’re not looking for it, your advice giving can make them feel as if they’re supposed to live their life the way you want–that you have the answers and they don’t. The likelihood of them following the advice is very low.
Advice rejected not only wastes time, but costs your relationship.
So are we just supposed to sit back and watch our friends make mistakes, saying nothing? Doesn’t being a good friend mean pointing out errors? Does choosing silence mean condoning their actions?
I’m not saying no giving advice ever. I’m saying only offer advice where advice is wanted.
God doesn’t overload us with all that we’re doing wrong. How he approaches the problems in my life–and everyone I’ve ever asked about this–reveals His tremendous restraint. Though there are probably 10,000 areas I need to improve, He’s usually only pressing on 1-3 at a time. And when I deal with those, we move on to the next. Year after year, as I grow, I discover more areas that I had no idea were problems.
If God, who has more than earned the right to speak in my life, does not point out everything I’m doing wrong when I do it, then I can learn the same restraint and speak only when invited to–by the other person or by the Holy Spirit.
There may be time when you do need to speak up anyway, though. The bigger the consequences, the greater the chance you should propose your advice without invitation. If their entire life (or someone else’s life) is on the line, you should offer your input no matter what. But as you reduce the impact, you stop needed to offer the advice.
I don’t have a hard rule on where the cutoff point is–when you sit back vs. speak up. It depends on the kind of relationship you have, the maturity of the person, the size of the consequences, what God may be telling you, and the emotional state that you and the other person is in. But when in doubt, be a little more restrained than aggressive. The respect you show through restraint will earn you the invitations to offer your advice much more than jumping at every chance to show that you know what they should do.
And then your advice will be received and actually make a difference.