When you are about to give some advice, consider these five questions before you do:
- Have they actually asked me for advice? In many cases what is needed is simply someone to listen. Given the opportunity, they will work through the situation on their own far more brilliantly than we might expect. Before you start to share your wisdom, ask them directly if they would like to hear your thoughts. The secret ingredient: Be clear that you’re fine if they don’t. By the way – this works quite well with your adult children.
- Is the advice you are about to give something you have personally applied and had good results? If the answer is no, make sure you state that clearly and provide the source of the information in the event they want to investigate further. Don’t imply or give an endorsement for something you haven’t personally adopted. If it is something you’ve proven out for yourself, present it in that way. So much better to let them know that you have faced a similar situation and ask if they would like to hear how you handled it. If they answer in the affirmative, share your story. They will see the gold in the thread without having to be directed.
- Are you about to offer advice? Or are you about to criticize? If it’s about advice, it’s going to be giving them information about what works. It’s not pointing out what’s wrong with their plan. They can connect those dots on their own in most cases. For example, if something is “missing” in their thought process, the advice will be better received if you suggest that they try adding something vs. pointing out that it’s missing. It’s that old adage still ringing true: It’s not what you say it’s how you say it!
- How attached are you to your own advice? Are you okay if they don’t follow it? This was a tough one for me. In fact one time I heard myself saying that if someone isn’t ready to follow my advice they shouldn’t ask for it. Of course in the playback reel I was not happy with myself and had to learn to disengage from my own advice. Quite often, people would like to hear our thoughts but might refrain from asking for them if they believe there will be the strings attached that obligate them to obey vs. simply consider. No two situations are ever truly identical. We must allow people to create their own solutions. Our input can be an ingredient without having to be the whole dish.
- How do you respond to unsolicited advice? This can be the most dynamic of all because we pop over into the other person’s position for a moment. Learning from our own responses can be a really valuable exercise. It also helps us put some of the other points into practice as the receiver. It can help us formulate our own response questions. One of the most effective ways to get value is asking the person for an example from their own life or work where their advice would be shown. When criticized, instead of focusing on the point of criticism, ask what they would recommend instead. When thanking someone for their advice, let them know that you’re not certain how you’re going to apply it but that it has been very helpful to you. Then when you do make choices, let them know how they influenced you.
To put a twist on my signature statement: Advise today how you want to be advised tomorrow! How we show up is how the world shows up for us. Every time.
Live (Advise) Well!