bad advice

Navigating day-to-day life requires making lots of relatively small decisions and some potentially life-changing ones as well, both of which can be somewhat daunting.

To help make these sometimes tough decisions, seeking advice is usually a smart idea. Yet not every time we ask for guidance are we going to receive sound advice. It’s definitely possible to see the red flags that come with bad advice, we just need to know how to recognize them.

Inexperience lacks wisdom.

Bad advice can take many different shapes. Unfortunately, sometimes people who believe themselves well-equipped to share advice may not be the best suited to do so. If the advice you are being given comes from someone who does not have any experience with your particular situation, then the likelihood of his or her advice being well-founded, and also valid, is not-so-great.

While your advisor may deem the advice helpful, it may not be appropriate for your particular situation. Would you seek advice about making a soufflé from someone who has never done so? Probably not. Similarly, if you are dealing with an issue at work, advice from the newest and least experienced co-worker would likely pale in comparison to the insight someone with experience might be able to provide.

Skewed perspectives make a realistic one near impossible.

On the opposite end of this totem pole is advice which is founded on much experience. Most of the time, advice coming from someone who has experience with your situation is solid because its foundation is based on tried and true knowledge; however, this isn’t always the case. First, consider someone who is a bit jaded. This person may have had a terrible experience with a situation similar to yours which makes it hard for him or her to remain unbiased. But just because his or her dating experience was bad does not mean yours will be, for example.

Similarly, someone who has experienced only favorable outcomes from a situation like yours will likely be biased in the opposite direction. Though his or her relationship has panned out, yours may not — and it may not need to. Both types of biased advice can be harmful because they may not be applicable to your circumstance. It’s important to keep in mind that every situation is unique and that your outcome could be very different. Considering both the good and bad in every situation is important. Realism is key.

Considering both the good and bad in every situation is important. Realism is key.

Why model the making of an outcome you wouldn’t want?

Bad advice is also likely to come from sources you don’t trust, admire or respect. Has the area in which you need advice (finances, career, relationships, etc.) in your advisor’s life turned out the way you would like for your own? If it has, great! But if not, then you may need to look elsewhere for advice, especially if that person is happy with his or her outcome. Just because a choice was good for one person does not mean that it will be for you, too.

I would mention, too, that if the people who care about you most are telling you one thing and people who aren’t as close to you are advising something different, tread carefully. Is the advice you’re taking coming from people who are truly invested in your life? Enough so to give you personalized and trustworthy advice? The people who love you want what’s best for you; trust comes from those who are deeply rooted in your life.

good advice friends

Beware of itching ears.

We must also be willing to listen to the advice that’s best for us, not just the advice we want to hear. Sometimes that ends up being the same thing, but sometimes it’s not. There’s no doubt that you can ask around enough to finally find the advice you want.

Want to start a business, even though you aren’t ready financially? Want to stay in a bad relationship because it’s comfortable? Want to keep working the job you dislike and not pursue your dream? You will find someone to give you the go-ahead, to push you in that direction. But is that what’s best for you?

If your conscience thinks it’s bad, then it probably is.

Most of all, it’s important to listen to your conscience. Bad advice will often leave you feeling unsettled and ill-at-ease when you need contentment and peace. Don’t try to stifle your intuition or set aside what you really think is the best path for you. Think about what you have learned and what you know to be best.

Sometimes our conscience is the best advice-giver of all.

How do you weigh good advice and bad advice?

Images via Tess Comrie


  1. I feel like giving and receiving advice must both be done with a pinch of salt. Sometimes, inexperienced advice might have some element of helpfulness because those people aren’t so engrossed in the situation so they may have a more holistic and unbiased view. As you say, trust your intuition and common sense!

  2. These are also great tips when offering advice! So often we want to give our input on a subject that we may know nothing about, and I think it’s very mature to step back from a situation and admit to someone you don’t know what advice to give instead of making up bad advice or giving bad advice just because you want to say something.

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