How to give advice without being a jerk

Ramit Sethi

I have a feeling I’m going to be really bad at dying. Here’s my plan: In my old age, about a year before I die, I’ll start joking to my kids about what my last words should be. They’ll get really mad and sad and shift uncomfortably in their chair because, really, who wants to talk about their dad dying?

And then, months later, surrounded by a loving family on my deathbed, I’ll finally say this:

“I’ve loved you all for my entire life. The most important thing I learned is…” DIE


Is it wrong to know that I’ll be laughing even while my life slips away from this green earth?

If your face is curled into a massive look of disgust, you might be too sensitive to read this site. Speaking of being sensitive…

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of fun giving advice and sharing what I’ve learned. I used to get frustrated when people didn’t listen. Why didn’t they just follow my advice when I could objectively solve their problems?

It took me a long time to realize that information alone doesn’t persuade. If it did, we’d all be rich, fit, and in perfect relationships. (See one of my favorite examples of how information alone doesn’t help people lose weight.)

The short story is that author Clotaire Rapaille was speaking at a university conference where the other speakers were talking about the importance of obesity education. He looked around the room and said this:

“I think it is fascinating that the other speakers today have suggested that education is the answer to our country’s obesity problem,” I said. I slowly gestured around the room. “If education is the answer, then why hasn’t it helped more of you?”

Who else has tried to give good advice, only to have your friend, mom/dad, or boyfriend/girlfriend ignore it? Even when they genuinely wanted to change?

Hmm. If information is not the answer, how do you give advice?

Check out this 4-minute video where I share:

  • What happened when I tried to give people the “right answer” about their finances (1:22)
  • The factors that influence behavior change besides information (2:01)
  • One simple, easy way to drastically improve your communication (2:40)
  • How to walk the line between honesty and sensitivity (3:14)
  • What people REALLY want when they ask for advice (3:46)

After you watch the video, leave a comment below: Have you ever had a friend or family member who refused to follow advice? Why do you think that is?

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  1. Tim

    My brother curses like a sailor. He has a 4 year old boy who’s starting to pick up on it and it bothers him. The first time I talked to him about it, I was calm and winsome, and he softened and considered the possibility that it might be his fault.

    But… Well, it hasn’t changed. I’ve put what seems like appropriate amounts of pressure on him based on the relationship we share, and he hasn’t relented.

    I think it’s important to remember this: while it’s a good thing to come alongside as a friend and give advice to hurting people, whether or not it “takes” is more a function of their actions.

    Also… I just imagined you running “split-test” last words on your kids. This is the mental image I have of you!

  2. Tom

    Love it Ramit! Very funny and love the content.
    Something I used to be very guilty of was giving information to people who didn’t want it.
    I was the guy who was constantly giving the unsolicited advice (especially at school when I was just learning about this self-development stuff).
    It took me much longer than it should have to learn to only give advice to people who specifically ask me
    Thank God I know better know!

  3. Ash

    I love you.

  4. Ilana B.

    Wow! I wish I had seen this video before I got married (and subsequently divorced 5 years later). I married someone who valued (brutal) honesty. The conversation that stands out for me is when we were talking about illness or cancer (probably triggered by some current event) and I asked, “If I had to have a mastectomy, would you still love me?” His answer: “It would be hard.”
    Of course, I flipped out but then it became my fault for asking the question. Didn’t I want him to be honest? The only answer to that I could see at that time was “No, I don’t want you to be honest.”
    Interestingly, his friend was studying psychology and we started talking about the “right” answer to the question, “Honey, do I look fat in this dress?” As you well know, it’s not a yes or no question. What’s the right answer? Either “You look great in that dress!” or “I really love the way you look in this other dress. It accentuates your [enter attractive feature here].”
    Of course, he couldn’t see that the question wasn’t about looking fat or the dress. It’s “do you love me”. And I guess, honestly, he probably didn’t or, if I’m being charitable, just didn’t know how.
    Great video! I hope tens of thousands of people can either stop being a$$holes or learn how to avoid them!

    • Emmy

      Questions like that, I’ve only seen asked in that way by people who are insecure. “Do I look fat in this?” is better replaced by something to the effect of “Which outfit do you like better?” which will tell you what you wanted to know – which dress to buy, or if my new suit really is as flattering as I thought it was in the store; without the underlying insecurity of a question like “Does this make me look fat?” Try replacing your own language, if you want better results from people you’re asking. Otherwise you’ll probably get the “Honey, you look marvelous!” from every guy who doesn’t want to sleep in the doghouse. Likewise, consider why you’d even ask if someone would still love you if you had a mastectomy.

      That being said, anyone who’d say they wouldn’t love you anymore (or an equivalent) if you had a mastectomy is probably an asshole not worth your time anyway.

  5. Lizzie T.

    I never give advice unless specifically asked, unless you count things like, “Yo, it is possible that three cupcakes and a glass of coffee milk is not a wise bedtime snack for our four-year-old, but hey, you’re the one putting him to bed tonight, so whatever.” I assume that people are already doing what they want to do, so any unsolicited advice from me is more or less the same thing as my saying, “Hey, you should stop doing what you obviously want to do and do something different, that you don’t want to do, and that I you don’t want to do because if it *was* what you wanted to do, you’d be doing it already.” Useless.

    However, when an objectively idiotic course of action ends in a result that the individual in question starts complaining about, I do reserve the right to mock them ruthlessly. “You gave your incredibly unreliable sister $600 for rent and she spent it on a new tattoo and is tapping you for another so-called loan? Wow, it’s almost like she’s not already $5K in the hole to you. Who could have predicted this course of events? If only there had been some way to see this coming.”

    It helps that my friends and family are all hypercompetent wiseasses, though. There is very little need to give any of them advice, and everyone is an equal target for ruthless mockery.

  6. Bret S.

    I used to be an attorney (I know! I’m sorry!), and one of the things that always astounded me was people who not only chose to ask me for advice, but actually PAID me to give them advice… and then decided to ignore it because, I think, it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Now, this gibes perfectly with what you say, because is 99.44% of these cases the person seeking advice was not someone I knew well, but in a way it still blows my mind.

    One beneficial side-effect of this phenomenon, however, was that I have become more conscious of when I am tempted to do the exact same thing myself. “I have come to this expert and posed this question specifically because I want the benefit of his/her expertise. He/She has now shared that expertise with me. Why on earth would I disregard it just because I was hoping for a different answer?”

    • Bret S.

      That’s “IN” 99.44% of these cases, not “IS” 99.44% of these cases. Dammit, Ramit, why can’t I edit? (See how I just blamed you for my own failure to proofread carefully?)

    • Mark

      Well, to be fair Bret, I was going through a divorce and my wife and her family were un-fricking real with the games they were playing.

      After a couple of years of them playing games and holding things up, it came down to the wire to make a final deal and they started trying to use use-car negotiating tactics on me. Multiple times in prior months my lawyer told me I should take shit-deals to avoid going to court because “I could end up worse off” in the 50/50 state of CT. So I’m in my lawyers office and he tells me that they want they are want another $10000 out of me at the 11th hour. My lawyer said it was a good deal. Because it would be bad if we went to court. I told my lawyer to tell them to shove it and I would see them in court and let the judge decide. They got angry but backed off.

      Sometimes the lawyer does not always know the situation the way the client does. And sometimes laywers are spineless wusses that just want to settle regardless of how their clients ends up. In the end, he’s a lawyer I would never recommend to any of my friends, other than perhaps a house closing or something minor. Divorce? I will tell my friends to find a lawyer that is a bit more willing to fight for what is right for their clients.

    • Lina

      What career do you have now since leaving law? I know lawyers who want to leave the practice of law and dont’t know what to do?

  7. Martin

    Love it.

    One thing though: When you say that only assholes talk like that, you’re forgetting that lots of people just don’t know any better. They honestly think brutal honesty is (or might be) best – and they’re being perceived as assholes to be sure, while their intentions are fine. In the end though, how we’re perceived matters more. 1000 good intentions amount to nothing if we’re perceived in a negative way.

  8. Junaid Dawud

    I think our risk aversion is one thing that often keeps us from acting on information. We often fear failure more than we desire success which keeps us from using the information we already have that could move us towards success. In my experience, most of the time when someone seeks explicit advice or steers the conversation in a direction that prompts it, they aren’t seeking new info. You can tell because they keep saying things like: “I know”, “you’re always right about this”, “I’ve been trying to but..”. The key to advice isn’t to tell them what they already know they need to do, but to stoke the fires of desire for success and to quash ‘reasons’ for risk aversion. People often don’t need advice, they need a grown up pep talk.

    • Lisa

      Or the other way it is risk aversion is people don’t want to tell you the truth because it provokes a negative reaction. It is much easier to tell someone what they want to hear. Failing that, it’s easier to be blunt than to give advice in a gentle enough way someone will not get defensive. Even then, they may ignore it or get angry because they don’t want to hear it.

  9. Hannah

    This reminds me of when a friend in high school was talking to me about what she should do because she had cheated on her boyfriend and (for some reason) she felt like I was the best person to tell because I was least judgemental.

    I wanted to say that was really stupid and you clearly need to tell him and break up… But I listened for a while and was a bit softer w/ my advice.

  10. Jeffrey

    But, being brutally honest is so much more entertaining! Why do you think we listen to you?

  11. Bob Rowell

    Good stuff, Ramit. I like the modeling of the socially adept peer advice.

    My friends don’t often get annoyed by my offering advice, but they seldom act on it (short-term, anyhow). The situations that come to mind involve me listening to their problem and offering a fairly detailed (often written) suggestion. My friends appreciate my consideration and effort, and usually applaud the content. But there is no implementation, even though they refer to it later, sometimes months later. I usually feel quite frustrated.

    I know that information alone rarely results in action. (Thanks, BTW, for the case study!) But when dealing with friends, I haven’t found a way. I can’t seem to get beyond the same pattern.


    • Rachel

      My friends are the same then they repeatedly tell me they really wish they had listened to me or were listening. There really is no response to that…

  12. Jesse

    I dig it.

    Also used to be guilty of giving unsolicited advice. Now only give when asked, and just try to be a good listener.

    I never had much of a problem being honest, but I used to be in the habit of dancing around issues/sensitive answers for fear for simply offending the other party, even when they were asking for brutal honesty. I’ve learned that when advice/opinions about certain topics is in fact asked for, true honesty is more valuable.

    What kind of friend would I be if all I did was provide empty comfort? The hollow kind, I think (I know because I have a few of those).

  13. Andie

    Is that a pink shirt?! 😀

    Anywho, I have one friend who comes to me all the time for advice. She never takes my advice. After thinking about why this was, I realized my friend did not really want my advice since she would do the exact opposite of what I would suggest. Then, I started telling my friend to do what I did not want her to do and because of this she began doing what was in her best interest. Funny how this works out! I know her so well and am surprised it took me a little while to figure out the best method to help her.

    I have also found that friends definately take to advice when you have stories that relate to what they are going through. I like to try to apply this with people I do not know, as well. One must be careful though not to come across like a “Know-it-all” or too pushy.

    As for honesty, I think as we age, we realize it is not socially acceptable to be brutally honest. When I was younger, I said whatever the heck I wanted. This comes with maturity and an awareness of others and our surroundings. Once robots become part of our families though, social standards on this topic may differ! 😛

  14. Jacob

    Please send me more information from your finisher’s formula

  15. Vivek

    Ramit, this is hilarious.

    Usually I am the guy who is universally liked. But, you rubbed off on me and this is what happened:

    I volunteered to organize a meditation class recently. One of the guys from an email list I posted on said, “Not this time but can you keep me posted?”

    In the past I would’ve made it my job to remind him. This time I took a page out of your book and wrote back:

    “About “keep me posted”, let me be honest with you. 9 times out of 10 people who say “keep me posted” never respond to the second message. There is a lady who told me a year ago that she wanted to do a course. Now if I call her she doesn’t even return my call. It is a drain on me when the need is theirs. I already have the techniques and the wisdom from these courses – I could care less.

    I am not saying this in a complaining or a blaming way – but just as a matter of fact. I understand, life takes over for people and given our crazy lives the important but not urgent things take a backseat and get forgotten and we wonder where life went.
    If you are really interested, you will put a reminder in your calendar to check with me about the next course. I am not going to take that responsibility for you.”

    I don’t know how it landed on them because I never heard back. But at least I felt free.

    • Smita

      I can relate to you very well Vivek because that’s what I have done always. I tell my clients not to hire me if they are not serious about changing their lives. I tell them that I am committed for their success but they need to be committed themselves or it would be a waste of their time and money and waste of my effort and time.

      As a result most of them enroll and are fully committed and rest who are not committed just filter out and they do me a favor 🙂 This keeps my success rate quite high. Most of the time I attract those clients who are serious about changing their lives!

    • Lisa

      Good for you for saying no and pushing back. Why let other people make you frustrated.

      However, your e-mail came off as frustrated and it is long. You could do the same thing with saying something like this below.

      “Hi Name,

      While we appreciate your interest in the course we do not give reminders. (second sentence here about why if you feel the need, but something polite and true like it takes up too much time to manage on top of classes). If you are interested in signing up for a later session please set a reminder on your calendar to check back in xxx time.


  16. Sean

    My education background is Health and Fitness and quite often my friends will ask for my advice and proceed to do nothing about it. Quite often I find that the copious amounts of conflicting information, the realization that health and fitness require long term effort and focus, and also the reality that the boring stuff (diet and exercise wise) is what works more often than not can by intimidating and demotivating.

    Also though, I have found that I am also slow to follow the advise of others more or less due to my stubbornness to ask for help and trust others. So of course, self reflection has allowed to empathize much more with others.

  17. Leah

    Love the take away message: People don’t want honesty initially. They first want someone to be a friend and listen without judgement.

    These videos are quality and entertaining to watch.

    • Andrea

      It’s funny. I thought this piece was going to be about how to become an expert. I get a lot of visits from people looking for information about that on my blog, which covers consulting. But this piece is great. People really do want to be heard, more than they want advice. That’s why, in consulting, it’s so important to listen to people and hear them and help them feel heard. I used to work in the counselling department of a university and I also did a peer counselling program as a teen. I swear I have learned from those experiences! Helping people feel heard matters, whether you are out socially or dealing with a client. (If you’re a consultant, you’d better have the follow-through, of course.) Connecting with people, building a relationship and getting to know them and their concerns is important, no matter what you’re doing. At this point in life, I see this in my social relationships, but also when I am at physio, massage therapy, personal training, the mechanic’s, etc. People want to be heard and they want to know you get them.

  18. Payuk Nay

    Good post Ramit. But… Gray hair now? haha

  19. Jessica

    My aunt gives unsolicited advice and then asks for advice but doesn’t do it. This is the only woman I know who will hire a nutrionist to get a better diet and won’t listen to a word that’s said. But if Dr.Oz says eat more fruits she has every fruit imaginable in her fridge. Recently she was let go from her job. Now I know she just wants the “pity party” but that’s not going to do any good. So I gave her some quick beneficial tactics she could use just to get the ball rolling. Maybe some of your friend sknow of an open position you could apply for; hey put in your resume at the temp agency that got you this past job; what are you looking for I can keep an eye out for something you might be interested in. In one ear and out the other. Jessica Im older I know how this game works my generation invented it. Don’t worry about it I’ll figure something out. Should I just not give her advice? Because even a shiny tactic doesn’t get to her. Then again I might be going about it wrong.

  20. Kat

    I do have to admit that some relatives and friends have stopped calling me and asking me questions if they don’t really want my honest (sometimes brutal) answer–and I like that a lot. I mean, if you don’t want me to be honest, why call me? 😉 Despite that, I understand and agree with your points and am working on not giving unsolicited advice and being more of “a friend.”

    My question is: I will be nicer to others but since I personally don’t like this smooth, friendly, non-opinionated approach and I REALLY want someone to tell me when I am wrong, being illogical, or to provide me helpful unsolicited recommendations, how can I ask for people to treat me this way even though they want the truth glossed over on their end?

    • Lisa

      Kat, you find a few people who are like minded and after forming a relationship with them, ask for the advice. You may have to start small and ask them and it may get to the point of the frank FYI. You also have to react in a positive manner so they repeat it. One of the reasons most people don’t give advice is that other people don’t take it well. Why bother if someone will get upset, defensive or won’t listen.

  21. Jean F

    I’m a writer and editor. Sometimes people have asked me to review something they’ve written. Based on previous experience, I now ask them – “Do you want my real opinion or do you want me to tell you it’s good?” If their answer is the latter, I tell them I can’t help them and don’t bother reading it or giving them any feedback. Someone I know told me how a friendship recently dissolved because of her honest response to the query “What do you think of my boyfriend?” She said, “He’s not good enough for you” and her friend dropped her.

    Knowing all this, I no longer give unsolicited advice unless I believe the person is engaging in life threatening behavior. Even then, I couch it along the lines of “Did you ever maybe think that behavior could be harmful?” People who smoke or are overweight know their situations. They don’t need anyone else to tell them change would be good. We’re all looking for the magic wand to solve our problems without work or sacrifice. My wand is broken so I keep my mouth shut.

  22. Mark

    My Ex-Wife used to come to me for advice about everything. I used to be straight forward and honest. Then I would find out that she asked 15 other people the same question and then made up her mind based on some other criteria. She was neurotic so she needed a feedback loop to make her feel better. Most of the time she had her mind made up and was just looking for validation. If she asked 15 people their opinion, and 5 out of 15 said what she wanted to hear, she felt validated.

    But if she took the path that aligned with my advice, and things didn’t pan out the way she wanted, it was somehow my fault.

    I also have a brother who doesn’t want any advice from anybody, ever. He’ll ask me for it though.

    I have a snippet I keep in a file and it’s kind of like the legal disclaimers that you see at the end of corporate emails. But it’s tailored to my brother and says that even if this email sounds like it consists of advice, it really isn’t advice, and you cannot retaliate with me a later date because you construe anything in the email as advice, judgement or criticism.

    It’s humorous, but the reality is that my brother wants to FEEL that he is making his own choices and when I give him advice, I think he intentionally does the opposite so that he can say he succeeded in his own way. Problem is, he usually fails because he didn’t take my advice. I love the guy, but I have decided to generally avoid advice giving because he just wants to get angry with people who tell him things he doesn’t want to hear. Yes, part of it is that I’m “brutally honest” ™, and I could find ways of being more persuasive and dance around people’s issues with how their perceive what I’m telling them. Now when my ex or my brother ask me for advice, I actually point out that they’re not really looking for advice and then I ask them what they want to do and why do they want to do it and then I say, “then why don’t you do it your way.” Then end up mad at me less and gives me less to be aggravated about because I didn’t waste my time telling them to do X when they were going to do Y all along.

  23. Kevin

    For years I have been trying to help my friends with their finances by giving them advice. Most of the times, they don’t listen because what I’m telling them to do involves work and a lot of people don’t want to put in the work to change their lives.

  24. Carm

    This couldn’t be more relevant.

    Most people want resources more than brutal honesty. It seems what most people want is to learn the “truth” about who they are and what they can do differently for themselves in a kind and constructive way.

    There are always underlying circumstances. Helping them find the right resources to figure out their truth is how you empower someone to create a better future for themselves.

    This was great. Thank you.

  25. Brendan

    Ramit, I wish I had watched this video years ago, because I was always the guy asking this question. I was always valued in academic settings, because in such a setting most people actually want the *right answer* for the test. That was simple. But in social settings? Nah, people didn’t want the right answer, but I always had it for them anyway. Adding insult to injury, I am a Republican, so my political views lean AWAY from politically correct (though I have gotten better expressing those, by necessity).

    I recently stopped talking about politics on facebook (or anywhere else) because it wasn’t worth the effort. Same thing with everything else — no one wanted to hear my opinions, so I simply shelved them.

    This video makes sense, and resonates with me. It tells me *why* people were (and occasionally still are) averse to hanging out with me, a question to which I’d never previously had an answer.

    I know it is crazy to a lot of people that someone actually had to explain this to me, but thank you. Now I have something else to work on personally — always a positive!

  26. Eric

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds this frustrating.

    I’ve learned that often people just want emotional support at first. “I’ve just got 5 overdraft fees!” A good response: “That must suck.” After you’ve got the emotional rapport going, then you can lead into the advice phase, if that’s what they want.

  27. Avery

    But it is so much fun nailing them right between the eyes with the TRUTH!

    Do you really care about what others think about you and whether or not they like you?

    Make them respect you even when they hate you!

    I am brutal when it comes to local politicians saying something that’s not accurate or just plain stupid. They hate me but they respect me because the facts are on my side.

    So if your lardass friend can’t stay away from the doughnuts..that’s their choice. Don’t sugarcoat the answer…they get enough of that BS already.

  28. Guy

    Hi Ramit, I enjoyed that. What you are saying makes sense, and it sounds a lot like what I try to do in my job. I work in health care, and a lot of my patients have health-related issues that stem from unhealthy behaviors. Saying to them: “Well if you didn’t shoot up meth every day you’d probably avoid a lot of these abscesses and might even have kept a few of your teeth” does not help a bit, even though it is the truth. Instead I ask them what it is about meth they enjoy, what are the things about meth they don’t like, what it is doing to their life, etc. Open ended questions. Usually that is what starts THEM, not me, talking about wanting to quit. Once they do that I start asking them things like: how important (on a scale from one to 10) is quitting to you? What would it take to quit? What do you think is the likelihood (on a scale from 1 to 10) that you succeed. What would you need to do first? etc. This is a technique called “motivational interviewing” and is used with good results in many areas of health care, social work, counseling and therapy a lot nowadays. There is no reason it shouldn’t work just as well in financial planning. And as I said in the beginning: I think you are doing a lot of this already in your approach. The basic principles are: your client (or friend) wants to be heard and respected, they are the expert on what is right and wrong in their life, and they need to hear themselves talk about these issues (to an empathetic listener) in order to see the problem and the way out more clearly, to increase their motivation, to resolve barriers to change, and to start being able to imagine what their lives could look like if they took some steps toward change. I can tell you from my own experience that assisting people in this way is MUCH more gratifying than trying to give them advice, or just “telling them the truth”.

  29. Effective Communication: Being honest without being a jerk | TLEG

    […] You’ll learn how to communicate effectively while still “being honest.” For more information, visit […]

  30. Luci

    I love this video! I’ve believed that honesty with compassion and tact is usually the correct way to answer somebody while leading them to their own answer by asking gentle questions.
    Fantastic video! Thank you Ramit!

  31. George W.

    You really don’t need any more comments, however…. your video really brought home the importance of who your per group is–thank you for that. Is passive aggressive synonymous with honest non-acehole?

  32. Simone

    I used to give advice as a hobby on an anonymous relationship advice forum. And I was pretty decent at analyzing issues and pinpointing problems as well as how to approach people so they are the most receptive. A small percentage of people took the advice at face value and put it to work. The majority spent part of their time debating it with me and a few other cohorts about their thoughts on the matter to work out the conclusion. But in the end a good amount of them either agreed to follow the advice and actually did or agree and just blew us off right back into the shit situation they came from.

    However there was a small percentage of people that were VERY resistant for advice even though they asked for it. They would fight us tooth and nail about why they were right, create circular arguments and sometimes avoided the questions all together and just talk more about themselves. It was a wonder why they came in the first place. The point is that I learned that people will more than likely bite on advice if you can explain it in their language and some what in line with their already predispositioned beliefs. If you challenge said beliefs to think on a different level, you are literally challenging their being. They will fight you to the ground to keep themselves intact even if they know its incorrect and they need to change it. In reality they aren’t ready to change and their high resistance is just the symptom of a much larger problem they can’t address at this time.

    That is why you don’t necessarily attack the direct question with brutal straight forward honesty, but allow them to explore themselves when giving advice. Asking inward questions forces them to think. Because nobody seemed to care what “we” as advice givers thought. They wanted to either hear they were right or come to the conclusion themselves. If we gave it to them…it was rejected. Very interesting. Nobody knows a better truth, than yourself. You just got to come to terms that its right.

  33. Aaron

    Great video, Ramit!

    I wouldn’t take the advice given by my younger brother because of how judgemental he would be when giving it. It didn’t matter what I did, for him, I was never “good enough”. He always claimed he wanted what was best for me but then proceeded to make feel lousy about myself by putting me down based on what I already know (yes, I know my job sucks and need a better paying gig, thank you very much). I finally came around to bettering myself without his “advice” by listening to others who took a genuine and sincere interest in my becoming a better person. For that, I am grateful.

  34. JT

    There have been plenty of times that I’ve been too honest. I’ve gotten a lot better about keeping my unsolicited opinion to myself, but I’m still not always helpful when my advice is sought.

    I can also be pretty resistant to advice from others, even when I can objectively admit that the advice is sound. This kicks in particularly strongly for things I’ve put a lot of time, energy, or emotion into (even unhealthily so). Some of the time I’m either looking back and feeling like the effort I put in would be wasted if I changed what I did.

    If I’m really honest, I think most of the time I don’t take advice about things that I know I need help in is fear that the advice won’t work. What if I take this piece of advice from this expert and things don’t get better? Could that be an area of my life that is just not fixable, or something I cannot change even when I put effort into it? It can be a lot easier to just accept what is because I know exactly what I’m going to get, and I can always hope that “someday, things will get better.”

  35. Steve

    Note that NONE of the situations presented in your videos were phrased as questions. People often confuse someone complaining and venting as an opportunity for unsolicited advice when they really just want someone to commiserate with or console them–back to your point about being more sensitive.

    They know they have a problem. But even if you say it nicely, you’re still providing them with solutions to problems they are NOT looking for answers to. Most people are more interested in reducing cognitive dissonance about their problem than actually solving the problem.

  36. Arthur

    Most of the time, we ask advice because we ALREADY know what we should do.
    Other times we really want to see the subject from different angles.

    So we have 2 possibilities:

    1. We look for people who pat us on the back and reinforce our current opinion/behaviours/patterns – CONFORT&approval.

    2. We genuinely seek other perspectives on the matter to choose the best one for our situation.

    So, my take is that one doesn’t follow advice for fear of getting out of their comfort zone, whatever that might be.
    I do this myself.

  37. Rachel

    The older I get the more I realize there is a large percentage of people who just make irrational bad decisions, know what they should do, but can’t be bothered to do it. The closest I have come to offering advice they take is to hear them out, give a personal story about how I fixed that in my own life, then act nonchalant and change the subject. They don’t get defensive but then sort of feel like they thought of it themselves. Still, those that can barely make themselves start can rarely make themselves finish.

  38. Dave Lalonde

    I totally agree with what you said about how people just want you to listen to them and be their friend. People don’t just ramble on to you for no reason. 😉 This was a great post. Thank you.

  39. Patti

    Good advice, it’s all in the delivery. Tone of voice, language used; everyone is different. Spot on that initially it’s about the person wanting to be heard non-judgmentally.
    My question is what happens once all of the “niceties” are addressed and the person(s) still don’t take the advice they asked for; it’s almost like they enjoy re-addressing their issues for entertainment value.
    I have a holistic health coaching certification and am unsuccessful due to most clients simply not following the advice given…I thought for the longest that it was because I don’t have formal training in the coaching aspect of behavior…now I’m thinking differently. I can’t be responsible for behavior…only in my delivery.

  40. Eric

    I would say 98% of the time I have a conversation with a peer or friend the other person is NOT looking for advice. As someone who thinks I’m awesome and always has great advice, I’ve struggled for years to not blurt out my opinions at every opportunity in these conversations.

    For example, after reading your book Ramit I felt so empowered by my new knowledge and financial freedom. As a college student I knew that I had achieved a level of mastery that many of my fellow students could benefit from, so I began to offer unsolicited financial advice to everyone all the time.

    My friends would say things like, “Man I spent WAY too much money on drinks this weekend. I’m gonna have to avoid drinking lattes for like a month now.” To which I’d respond by laughing and saying, “Instead of avoiding lattes you should automate your finances like I have!”

    Of course my friends would roll their eyes at me, feel criticized, think I am an arrogant ass hole, and never want to mention money to me again. I felt like I was providing such amazing help, but they just thought I was a jerk.

    That’s when I realized that it wasn’t my advice they came to the conversation for, it was the opportunity to vent. The chance to tell someone their problems, to have someone listen. THEN, once they’ve felt listened to and cared for, they will notice that YOU do things differently based on your results and in most cases they will ASK for your advice.

    Once someone has asked for your advice they are given you permission to be critical. Because they are taking the first step, you now have a free pass to make suggestions and offer comments.

    In summary, most people don’t want your advice they want your compassion and empathy. Your results will showcase themselves and people will ask for your advice once they trust you.

  41. Nina

    How much you care about the relationship will be the extent to which you want to slow down, listen, be non judgmental and be a friend.

    My favorite response is to validate (Aw, you got overdraft fees!) and then ask what got in the way (How did that happen?). Usually that’s enough. People know how to answer it. Whether they change is a personal choice and their responsibility.

  42. Mike @ TransformingStigma.Com

    Thanks Ramit!

    This is some of the best advice you have given.

    It really resonated with me because it’s something I struggle with. People come to me for advice on a daily basis. I will do a better job of listening thoroughly and listening ‘in between the lines’.

  43. Cathy

    Oh man Ramit, this video is SO perfect for what you just described.
    “It’s not about the nail”

  44. George

    The advice isn’t wrong just because it is ignored, right? Advice has to be timed right. Also, the person that gives the advice has to be respected the receiving end.
    I think the challenge is to accomplish the above.
    Advice to the wrong person and the wrong time = waste of time

  45. Shanice

    I guess I’m morbid because I saw your post and video as being hilarious.

    I’m reading this book called “Quiet Leadership” by David Rock which basically talks about how people have to come up with their own ideas in order to change rather than you telling them what to do. It’s pretty interesting information and has been helping me to not always be a “fixer” of a problem but to just help the person figure out the answer on their own. When people figure out their own answers, they’ll be more likely to follow through.

  46. Rob

    Excellent video Ramit. These concepts reminds me of two things I learned concerning human behavior. In each person there are two major fears:

    1. Fear of not being good enough
    2. Fear of not being loved

    If someone speaks to another person and steps on either one of these issues, the other person will blow up, almost every time. A perfect example is when you mentioned the person with financial problems and the other person in the conversation was a jerk and called him out on not being financially responsible (This steps on the fear of not being good enough). The person is almost guaranteed to get defensive. I also have the problem of saying the first thing that is on my mind, however I am starting to learn that I have to stop and think before I say something so I don’t start an argument.

    The best book ever on this topic is How to Win Friends and Influence people by Dale Carnegie
    I recently finished this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about human behavior and social skills.


  47. shona

    Great video Ramit. Thank you for being you. I have also found that people I have listened to are not necessarily looking for answers or solutions, but to be heard and validated.
    Most people KNOW what they need to or have to do.