While there’s nothing wrong with giving free advice now and then, it’s important to be aware of what happens when you do. Here’s what happens when you give advice that someone hasn’t paid for:

1. Advice shifts status. When you offer someone advice, you’re showing how you’re smarter than they are. These few phrases are examples of how easy it is to negatively shift status:

  1. “You should…”
  2. “What I do is…”
  3. “You might think about doing…”

All of these infer some kind of advice and can get bad behavior going.

2. The bad behavior that results from status shifts. Pecking order is one of the most ancient wirings in our brains. When we feel “lesser” than someone (less smart, talented, informed, favored, etc.) we have a tendency to behave differently. Defensiveness, one-upping and good old blank-but-malevolent stares are a few of the things that happen when someone tries to regain status.

So what can you do?

3. Read between the lines. Even if someone says they want your opinion, they may just be looking for validation. If they insist they want your advice, ask them if they want both the good AND the bad of how you see things.