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  • Amelia Harshfield

prevent disasters: understand the difference between good and bad advice

Updated: Apr 21

Good advice is worth its weight in gold. It can save you headaches, money, time, energy, stress, and so much more. Bad advice can get you into situations where you are stuck with the outcome and the advice-giver is far removed from the situation. This is important for me to talk about because I got into a bad financial situation because I didn't know the difference. I paid a real estate coach a significant amount of money for her help with investing and how to make money in real estate.


With her advice I bought a property I should not have bought. She did not teach the appropriate numbers to look at, she didn't describe the tax hike that comes with buying a new property, and she said I could completely rehab one side of a duplex for $4000 (which is way too low). I used her contract which got me into trouble in a real estate deal. When I brought this up to her, she told me I should have known better. How could I have known if she did not teach me? I'm not familiar with the process. I spent months stressed out about money, some of which I paid to her for bad help and then paid for the consequences of the bad help. I'm trying to save others the headaches I had with poor guidance.


Understanding this difference is especially important right now because everyone has an opinion and thinks they can be an expert. People who are good at sales can tell when you are reacting to something and may try to sell things to you without you needing it. So you understanding how to filter through what people are selling will be a skill that will serve you well and could save you from going down the wrong path.


What is good advice and how can you tell what it is? The first step in understanding advice is by looking at the person who is giving it. Are they giving advice without asking if you need help? That's a bad sign. Do they start telling you the property is a great deal without asking questions about the numbers? Do they give you help whether you want it or not? Some people need to feel important by helping others without them wanting assistance. When people give advice without you asking they are not looking out for your best interests. They are either trying to fix your situation for you or they assume they know what is good for you.


It looks something like this:

You: I'm having a hard time with my car right now. It keeps having issues with all sorts of things.

Them: You should get a new one. I have a friend who sells cars. I'll give you his number.


Notice this support involves them telling you what to do without you asking for aid. They are saying what they would do in your situation rather than seeing what would be best for you. People who give good advice are those who do not give it all the time. These people ask questions about what you are experiencing and often validate what you are feeling. They want what is best for you in the situation. They do not tell you what they would do or what you should do (unless it's a dangerous situation for you).


Below is an example of people who give good advice:

You: I'm having a hard time with my car right now. It keeps having issues with all sorts of things.

Them: That sounds irritating and exhausting. How long has this been going on?

You: For months now. I can't seem to get things right with the car right now.

Them: I hear you. What do you need around the situation right now?

You: I just need to get through this, I have a check coming in next month that will help. These surprising car costs are stressful.


Those who give good advice do not try to fix your situation for you. They do not tell you what you "should" do. You are making the decision not them. If someone is telling you what you "should" do, it is a sign to stop listening to them. These poor advice-givers give this advice all the time. In fact, they don't know how to not give this kind of advice, and that is the danger of it. If you have someone in your life who is always telling you what to do rather than validating how you feel, that is a great sign that they aren't aware of what they are doing (most people aren't aware of how they are finding the solution for you).


If you notice the majority of people in your life don't help you find what is right for you, that is common. It's most likely they never learned how. If you are looking for advice start by seeing what they do when you present a problem to them. Do they take the conversation over and try to fix your situation? That is a red flag. You can get out of the situation by saying "thank you" and moving on.


NOTE: If your life is in danger like with domestic abuse, then the "shoulds" are important. You should leave, and in that time clean advice will tell you what you should do. This is one of the few times I tell clients they should do something.


Photo credit:

Johannes Plenio on Upsplash






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