Advice: Communicating to Support and Influence
- Erina MacGeorgeErina MacGeorgeDepartment of Communication Arts and Sciences, Pennsylvania State University
- and Lyn Van SwolLyn Van SwolDepartment of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Advice is a recommendation for action that includes both suggestions for behavior and ways of feeling and thinking about the problem. It is a ubiquitous phenomenon in personal and professional settings, and functions as a form of both social support and social influence. Advice often improves coping and decision-making outcomes but can also be perceived as intrusive, threaten recipient’s sense of competence and autonomy, and damage relationships.
Although advisors often have expertise that can benefit the recipient, advice recipients often discount and underutilize advice, to their disadvantage. Recipients are more likely to utilize advice from advisors they trust, who engender confidence, and who have more expertise or experience. They are also more likely to seek and use it when they have not thought of solutions independently. Recipients who are overconfident, have more expertise, or have more power than an advisor are much less likely to seek and utilize advice. When giving advice, advisors often consider different factors than they would if they were making decisions for themselves, resulting in advice that is more normative and less tailored to individual preferences.
Advice can be delivered in a variety of ways, and this stylistic variation has consequences for recipient outcomes. For example, highly direct or blunt forms of advice underscore the advisor’s implicit claim to status and often generate more negative evaluations of the advice and advisor. Advice message content also influences recipients’ advice evaluation. Content that emphasizes efficacy of the action, feasibility, and limitations of the advice tends to improve evaluation and utilization of advice. This research is synthesized in advice response theory (ART), which indicates that advice outcomes are influenced by message content and style, interaction qualities, advisor characteristics, recipient traits, and features of the situation for which or in which advice is sought. Behaviors that co-occur with advice, such as argumentation, emotional support, and planning, also influence outcomes. The sequencing of advice in interaction also matters; the integrated model of advice (IMA) indicates that advice in supportive interactions is best placed after emotional support and problem analysis.
The contexts in which advice are given influence the exchange and outcomes of advice. These include personal and professional relationships, in which relational cognitions and professional norms affect the process and outcomes of advising; groups and organizations, in which advising processes become complex due to the multiplicity of relationships, goals, and expectations; cultures, in which advice-seeking and advice-giving varies in perceived appropriateness; and digital environments, which are often valued for advice that is unobtainable elsewhere.