I was in a group session with my business coach. I was listening to him give advice to one of his students. I could see her pushing back on his advice … hard. He was getting more and more frustrated. His student was getting more and more frustrated.
Coach: You need to learn to say, “No.”
Student: There are times I can’t say, “No.”
Coach: You need to stand up for yourself.
Student: This isn’t about standing up for myself. This is about expectations my clients have when they hire me.
I watched the two continue to push against each other until the student finally shared more information about her specific situation. Once both parties had that information they were able to have a more constructive conversation.
Before you give advice, gather missing information
Giving advice is tricky business, whether you are on the giving end or the receiving end. Where I see good intentioned advice go wrong is almost always when the advice giver is missing key information. Before you offer up advice to someone, ask this question first:
“What solutions have you already explored?”
I learned this lesson the hard way. Here’s one example…
I was doing a training class on handling conflict using my verbal Aikido process. I was working with a group of high school students. One student asked about a tough situation with her parents. I plowed right in with advice.
“You should ask your parents one of these questions.”
The student calmly informed me she could not speak to her parents like that because it would be perceived as disrespectful. The rest of the class agreed.
Had I started with, “What solutions have you already explored?” I could have gathered key insights on the difficulties of the parent/child dynamic.
Before you give advice, reduce resistance
As the famous saying goes … you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. So it is with advice. You can give someone the best advice in the world and they may not take it. We have a natural tendency to push against being told what to do. We also believe other people do not know what it is like to be in our situation.
So how do you reduce resistance?
Help yourself by getting rid of the phrases “you need to” and “you should.”
Ask, “What solutions have you already explored?”
NOW give your wise advice. You might learn something as well.