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Free Advice: Don’t Give It.

I believe in laissez-faire: “Leave us alone.” This philosophy applies to the civil government, but it also applies to individuals who don’t want your advice. Leave them alone.

Did the person approach you and ask for advice? If not, there are lots of reasons why your friends may not want your advice.

Here are a few:

  • They don’t like free advice from anyone.
  • They regard free advice as nagging.
  • They regard offers of free advice as lording it over them.
  • They think you are an idiot, but hesitate to tell you.
  • They don’t accept your philosophy of life.
  • They don’t want to change how they do things.
  • They don’t want to hear bad news.
  • They prefer to ask.
  • They received different advice from their accountants or lawyers or physicians.
  • They don’t want to be confused.
  • They think they know best.
  • They don’t want to be reminded of their problem.
  • They think your advice will cost them money in the long run.
  • They don’t want to become beholden to you if you’re right.
  • They don’t want you to be right if they won’t change.
  • They want confirmation, not a warning.

Then there is this general rule: free advice is seen as being worth nothing. Because it’s free, they will not act on it. But you want them to act on it. So, don’t offer it. Tell them where they can buy it.

I return to this theme every few months. I find that subscribers either did not read the above, or else they just can’t accept the fact that their free advice will not be taken seriously and acted upon. They ask me to tell them what to tell friends and relatives. I recommend telling them nothing. If you see an article that may help, send it. That’s sharing information, not giving advice.

If you give free advice, and the person does not take it, he will be resentful if it turns out to be correct. If he takes it, and it turns out to be wrong, he will be resentful. Only if he takes it, and it turns out to be right, will he be pleased. The odds are against you: two bad outcomes, one good one.

This advice applies to your adult children and your parents. At most, hand a printout of something you think will help them. Do this only once.

I stopped giving free advice in 1974, when I started writing my newsletter.