What’s more frustrating than a problem you can’t immediately solve? A coworker who acts like he or she has all the magical answers and might as well handle it for you.
No one asked for your help, Karen.
Being a know-it-all may have been cute when you were five, but you’re a professional now. Telling a colleague what he or she should do is more or less telling them what they should do, and, more specifically, what you would do. Even more so if your advice is unsolicited but you’re outlining directives anyway.
To communicate in a less contentious way, avoid using the phrase “you should” unless someone explicitly asks, “What should I do?” If you haven’t been specifically asked that question but still throw out instructional advice, you could be dubbed that person in the office who causes eye rolls and groans because you’re oh so “helpful” and your behavior may deter others from actually seeking your advice when needed. No one likes to be lectured to.
This is true for coworkers, spouses, friends, clients, and so forth.
If you feel the burning urge to share some advice, try posing your comments in one of the following ways instead:
“Have you tried…?”
By posing your advice as a question, you’re allowing your colleague to answer on their own and talk out their current situation. Asking a question also implies that you care enough to help without jumping straight into a lecture.
“I’ve done this in the past and it worked for me.”
Be a little #relatable. Tell a story about what has worked for you to show you’re coworker that you’ve been there, too. Display sympathy and empathy by sharing how you’ve dealt with a similar situation before and how you succeeded.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
Yes, actually ask if you can help before offering help. Instead of describing what your coworker should or shouldn’t do, show simple kindness and extend the offer. They might say no, but that’s OK. Just knowing that you cared enough to ask may be more helpful than you think.
It’s possible to communicate advice without telling people what they should or shouldn’t do. That’s not your job, after all.