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Research Shows Unsolicited Advice Doesn't Help

An article in The Wall Street Journal summarized a series of studies which proved what many people may know from experience—giving advice isn't always helpful, especially in marriage. Researchers at the University of Iowa conducted a series of six studies that tracked 100 couples for the first seven years of their marriage. They concluded that both husbands and wives feel lower marital satisfaction when they are given too much advice from a spouse, as opposed to too little. And unsolicited advice is the most damaging.

The researchers focused on a fundamental biblical principle: serve your spouse, or put the needs of your spouse ahead of your needs. Here's part of their conclusions:

One way to give better advice is to first make sure your spouse actually wants your help. You can do this by asking—a novel idea!—"Would you like some ideas on that?" In other words, stop and listen. Sometimes listening can be even more effective than giving advice. Or instead of jumping in and giving advice, try telling them a story. "This might not be appropriate for you, but what I did when I had a similar problem was …"
What if you're the recipient of unwanted advice? Respond with a "thank you," to acknowledge the gesture. Then explain that you aren't looking for advice at this time. This allows for the possibility that down the road you may want advice. Then be sure to explain what would be helpful to you. Do you need someone to simply listen? Brainstorm? Bring chicken soup? Someone who loves you will be relieved to know how to be useful.

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