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These Are The Six Red Flags That You’re Getting Bad Advice

Here are six signs that the “wisdom” you’re getting is best ignored.

These Are The Six Red Flags That You’re Getting Bad Advice
[Illustration: Magic poster collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-13437.]

Advice—there’s no shortage of it. From a colleague who was once in your shoes to the self-help guru with a weekly podcast, you can get input on just about any situation you’re facing. But is the advice good?

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While most people are genuinely trying to be helpful, a lot of the advice you get needs caution tape around it, says relationship expert April Masini, author of the Ask April advice column.

“Bad advice is rife,” she says. “It can come from someone who means well, but doesn’t know all the facts, and so gives you bad advice. Typically, you know these sources. They’re lovable people who just don’t get it or they just don’t get you.”

Here are six signs that the “wisdom” you’re getting is best ignored.

1. The Person Isn’t Qualified

Everyone has an opinion, but that doesn’t mean their thoughts are valuable, says Bruce W. Cameron, a Dallas-based licensed counselor and LA Talk Radio host. If the advice giver’s accomplishments or background do not suggest someone who could even speak on the matter, feel free to ignore what he or she says.

“If the person is a random person and not even in the business, it’s time to reevaluate the credibility of the advice and giver,” he says

Be especially cautious if the advice comes from someone who may not have your best interests in mind, adds Masini. “People who have a history of looking out for you, and who care about you and your successes, are the best sources for advice,” she says. “When someone has a motivation for you to not come in first, consider that along with their advice. What’s on the surface isn’t always what’s really going on.”

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2. The Advice Isn’t Tailored To You

Advice that has little to no context about you or your business is often bad advice. “Very often, people give advice based on their experience, which may not align with the situation the recipient is dealing with,” says Jeremy Greenberg, a business strategist who has worked with companies like Capital One and Avon.

If you receive advice that is more about someone else’s experience, make sure the situation mirrors yours exactly. “It often does not,” he says, adding that this is especially true for situations such as making a career move or relocating. “All are dependent on personal preferences.”

3. The Person Talks But Doesn’t Listen

If the advice you’re getting is filled with “shoulds” be cautious. Good advice requires context that can only be learned when the other person takes the time to ask you questions.

“Most good advice givers ask clarification questions prior to rendering their words of wisdom,” says Cameron.

4. The Advice Is Focused On The End Result And Not The Process

Be cautious of advice that’s laser-focused on the decision and not the steps leading up to it, says Greenberg. The evaluation process is just as important as the final answer.

“Analyzing the pros and cons of your options is helpful not only to making the best decision for you but also being content with your decision to minimize regret,” he says.

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5. The Advice Is Emotionally Charged

When you look for advice it’s because you want objectivity, a thoughtful second opinion. But if the person’s input is filled with feeling, it might be a good idea to pass, says Greenberg.

“An overly emotional undercurrent is likely a sign of the advisor’s bias,” he says. “He or she may have an agenda that doesn’t match yours.”

6. The Advice Ruffles Your Instincts

If your inner voice disagrees with someone’s advice, go with your gut. “Chances are strong that you’re right,” says Masini.

The irony about asking for advice is that we often know what to do. “We just second guess ourselves and talk ourselves out of doing the best thing,” she says. “Don’t. Listen to you. You know yourself better than anyone.”

How To Respond To Bad Advice

When you recognize advice as being bad, you don’t need to shut someone down as soon as a red flag pops up. “There’s nothing wrong with listening to advice that isn’t necessarily helpful,” says Greenberg. While it may sound counterintuitive, you may learn something about that person that may be helpful later or you may develop counter arguments in your head. “The important point is to avoid being swayed when you know the advice is questionable.”

If they’re persistent and it’s causing you distress, thank them and say that they’ve given you a lot to think about and you need time to process things, says Greenberg. “Many will want your commitment about a decision,” he says. “Refuse to provide this by explaining briefly that they’ve been very helpful and now you need to think about it on your own.”

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But skip the temptation to debate, says Masini. “When you argue the advice you’ve decided is bad advice, you’re engaging in a negative relationship dynamic,” she says. “There’s not a lot of payoff for you in that conversation. Instead, acknowledge and disengage.”