Asking Questions

How to Stop Giving Advice and Start Helping

Do you ever feel the urge to give people advice? Even when they don’t ask for it? I… um… ahem…no… ahhh… I never do that. (insert photo of my nose growing like Pinocchio).

When people discuss problems at home or work, our first instinct often is to give advice. But is that your ego or the best way to help them?

Often the coach approach of asking questions is best.

While none of us can become coaches after reading this 300-word article, there are some fundamental shifts that I’d like you to consider the next time you feel the urge to offer advice.

1 –     Believe that the other person is or is capable of growing into the expert on their own lives.


2 –     Ask open-ended questions that start with the word What so you don’t lead anyone in your preferred direction. Here are some examples:

  • What would you like to happen?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What are you doing now?
  • What is working about what you are doing now? What’s not working?
  • What new direction do you need to take to achieve success?
  • What are the barriers?
  • What people or resources could help you?
  • What kind of planning do you need to do?
  • What is your next step?

3 –     Experience the power of silence. Give the other person the opportunity to consider their answer and speak. Don’t be so quick to jump in.

I’m a work in progress like everyone else. I am working on my coaching skills with my clients and my students every day.

My coaching question for you now is – What are you going to do differently so you are asking questions instead of giving advice this week?

PS If you’d like a good laugh about asking questions and listening, check out this video.

Catherine Doucette MEd, CTDP is a Training and Performance Consultant who delivers customized business communications and leadership programs that produce measurable results. 



  1. Daniel Mark Wheaton on March 14, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    This is great advice, Catherine. And it’s applicable to so many situations. It’s one of the fundamentals not just of coaching, but of brainstorming in general. Pose questions, let the answers come, don’t be afraid of silence, and trust that the end result will be impactful. Oh, and you’re right, the video you linked to is entertaining. 😉

    • Catherine Doucette on March 19, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      You’re right. Brainstorming without judgment is a great way to use more wide-open questions.

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