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Why Giving Advice is Like Hot Mustard

Posted on Mar 6, 2013 by in ThiNK First | 14 comments

Why Giving Advice is Like Hot Mustard

I got to thinking advice is rather like hot mustard.

Here’s why:

Giving and receiving of advice is a strange and unique pursuit, a delicate balance.

There is very much a giver and a recipient in an exchange of advice.

Taking advice and embracing feedback is an acquired skill.

Sometimes you can choke on the best advice. That advice can be too strong or too much, or both.

Too much advice can often prevent you from taking any advice. You can be overwhelmed by change and choice.

Just like mustard, it’s easy to dispense too much advice.

Most advisors dispense too much, which often means no advice is taken.

Like mustard, advice is an supplement to the main course – an optional extra.

It’s easy for an advisor to see what they think someone needs, but advice is harder to give it in small bite-size portions.

Just like writing a short post or a short note, giving brief advice takes more effort and time. More consideration. Brief focussed advice takes effort to distill the bare essentials.

Often, if you give small pieces of advice, they get implemented. You recipient can develop a trust and a taste for something stronger.

I know I’ve learned to give people a first action – one step. I’ve learned to do this as a test. Will this person act. If so, they earn more of my attention and willingness to help.

It’s often hard to see that you need advice. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and to crave the steady path. Perhaps you are used to life without something extra to challenge your perspective.

Advice is harder to take. Advice can be too hot to handle.

As with mustard, most advice is left on the plate.

You need to really want to put the advice into practice to go through to pain and the effort to listening and implementing. You have to believe and want the outcome.

When giving advice you should make sure it’s hot, hot enough to make a difference, but equally not too hot to handle.

That’s a hard balance. You should give advice in small portions, recognizing that most advice is left on the plate. Don’t let your advisee choke of indigestion. Be careful to dispense the next most needed piece of advice, so people take your advice and put it into action.

There’s a touch of the Mary Poppins to giving advice. You need to know which is the right spoonful of sugar.

Quality advice is meant to be hard to consume. There’s a lot of truth to the saying “no pain, no gain”.

Easy advice is not really advice. It’s fluff.

Obvious advice should not really need an advisor. Overloading people with obvious advice is not helpful. It’s noise.

Often advice is given for free, making it easy to ignore, easy to let go to waste.

I’m sure even advice that’s paid for is still ignored. When you are being paid it’s easy to think you should give more.

Far better to give just the right amount and have your advisee coming back to ask for more.

Before giving advice you should determine if someone is happy with their status quo – are they in need of a supplement. Do they need spicing up? Often advice is given from your perspective and not from that of the advisee.

Some movement is better than none.

What is the right dose? What’s your experience? Have you been given too much advice. Have you left suplus advice go waste?

Image Credit: alexbrn


Nick Kellet (164 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at and


  1. First of all let me say this is the first time I am visiting your blog and the layout is extremely unique, the images you have to hover over before you see post title is a format I hadn’t run across before and was very intrigued.  In regards to your article about giving advice, I agree that it is always easier to give than to receive much like it is easier to preach than practice what you preach in many cases.  The only advice I give is in areas I am very experienced in, the last thing I want to be caught doing is giving advice about a topic or category that I am not at least proficient enough in that I am confident I am helping others and know what I am talking about.  Too often advice is given and it is more like “opinion” than advice and these especially don’t digest well with readers.  I agree that too much detail advice can cause boredom or come off as a lecture, so it has to be tailored and articulated to be effective and grab enough interest so those who you are dispensing advice to and were looking for it will receive and try to take it into consideration.

  2. I would have never thought of giving advice in this way, but it makes a lot of sense… you definitely have to balance your listening with your advice as it takes a bit of both to be truly accepted for what you are sharing!

  3. RebelBrown NickKellet When giving advice I always start with “Take what you can use and throw the rest in the trash!”

    • 🙂 MitziMsAdventur RebelBrown NickKellet When giving advice I always start with “Take what you can use and throw the rest in the trash!”

  4. Tangy and mouth-watering can be enticing…Carolyn_Arnold

  5. AyPee NickKellet Advice: For those that tolerate it at all, any is too much.

  6. Ross_Quintana NickKellet Different points of views, different stages, people on both sides see different pictures and how to get there.

  7. ScottScanlon NickKellet Some people appreciate it, some do not, but it doesn’t change what it is…


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