(by Dawson McAllister)
I have built my ministry on giving advice to teens and young adults on the radio. Because of the radio format I often only have 3 minutes to hear their story and get to the heart of their problem, but I’ve learned a lot about how to give advice that resonates with teens and young adults. The staff at TheHopeLine® also has learned a thing or two about how to give advice that kids will actually listen to. So I thought I would share some of the lessons we’ve learned about how to offer advice in a way that is effective…in a way that others will actually listen to and accept. Have you ever tried to give someone advice, but they tuned you out or got really mad at you?
4 Steps to Giving EFFECTIVE Advice
- LISTEN. This is SO important. Unless a person feels heard and understood, they will never trust the advice you are giving. You must take time to gain an understanding of where they are coming from. Ask them lots of questions to show you really desire to understand the situation and their point of view on it. Then state back to them what you’ve heard them say by summarizing, “So what I hear you saying is…Is that right?” This way you are both sure you are on the same page and they know you understand them.
- ENCOURAGE. This is another important step that cannot be hurried over. Before diving into any advice, encourage them in some way. Tell them that you believe in them, or encourage them that there is help available. Unless you start with encouragement, they may be stuck in such a negative place that they don’t believe things could ever change or that they are capable of acting on any of it. However, offering encouragement opens the door to HOPE and prepares them to be ready to hear what you have to say. So find SOMETHING to encourage them with. You can focus on a past success or the potential they have. Or here are some other examples…”It was an important first step to admit what your struggle was.” “You sound like you are really ready to make some good choices.” “You are not alone.” “There are people who can help you and I’m here for you too.”
- ADVISE. The best way to give advice is through getting their involvement in deciding what they should do and influencing their thinking in a positive way.
- Involvement– In order to have people buy into any advice you are giving, they need to be involved in the discussion and the decision. Just talking at them can be quite ineffective. If you can get them to arrive at the decision of what to do next on their own…so that it is their idea, they will be much more committed to the decision and more likely to follow through. In all my years of talking with people, I have found that much of the time they know the right thing to do, they just need someone to confirm it for them. Here are some ways to involve them:
- Ask them what they’ve already done to try to better their situation and why it may or may not have helped.
- Ask them what else they think might be helpful.
- Offer a suggestion of your own and ask them what they think about that idea.
- Influencing – As they come up with ideas you can influence them toward or away from what they are thinking based on whether or not it is a good decision. Asking them questions about their solution can help them think things through. Such as:
- What do you think would happen if you did this?
- How do you think you would feel afterwards?
- Why do you think that is a good idea?
3 Things to AVOID When Giving Advice
- Being Judgmental – Nobody will ever confide in you if they feel that you are going to judge them. While you might not approve of the choices they have made, let them know you are going to listen to WHY they made the choices before criticizing.
- Preaching – Do not just talk at someone. Involve them in the discussion through lots of questions and listening.
- Offering a solution too quickly – It is important to really listen and gain a full understanding of all that they are struggling with, what their perspective is, and what they’ve already done to try to fix the situation. By saying, “Just do this and it will all be better,” you minimize a problem they may have been struggling with for a long time.
I hope you find this helpful as you seek to influence the teens and young adults in your life…whether that be as parents, or youth leaders, or aunts and uncles, or whomever God gives you the opportunity to guide. I firmly believe that teens and young adults desire your influence in their life and will welcome it and accept it, if it is given in a way that listens and respects who they are and their point of view.
God bless you for investing in the lives of teens and young adults.