Giving advice

Continuing from asking for advice I wanted to put down some of the things I keep in mind when giving advice.

Personal

Most of the time the advice we have to give is either professional or personal. I find the personal one more challenging. It normally involves talking to a close friend in need or a family member and as such there is a strong emotional connection. With professional advice it is natural to lack a strong emotional attachment and in general the mindset you have is to be more impersonal rather than personal (depending on the work environment).

Be objective and distance yourself from the person and the subject you are discussing, but also keeping a close look at what you are asked. Listen. Put emotions aside and look at the mechanics of what is being described and where the blockage is. As mentioned in the previous article, constructive criticism is needed.

The advice can go into two stages. One is identifying the major roadblock. The second is prescribing a set of actions to deal with the blockage. I find it very important to keep in mind that the second is not necessary. I.e., if i don’t know how a problem can be solved I can still point to it. Someone else might know how to solve it. Sometimes all that people need is to see the weakest point. This helps the advised to direct their energy where it will achieve the maximum result with the least input.

The last point is crucial, because when someone asks me for advice at the first instance I get an internal pressure and the desire to solve their problem. This can be disruptive for me and for them. I can go out of my way to try and solve the issue, which would leave the other responsibilities I have unattended. Also, the person that asked for a simple advice would now have to deal with me as well.

“No”

Probably the most important thing I keep in mind is – I don’t have to do anything. Not in the sense of “It’s your problem, I’m not getting involved”. Instead it is even more valid and important when you do want to help.

Know when to refuse giving advice.When you don’t see clearly where the problem is or think you can just confuse the one asking. It is absolutely fine to tell them you don’t know, can’t help or that you think you will just confuse them. If you know someone else who is more experienced and likely to be able to help in the kind of difficulty at hand, point the inquirer their way.

If you see that the person who asks for the advice is not able to receive criticism and would instead take it personally it might be better to just keep your thoughts to yourself. It can save stress and energy for both sides.

I find it very important when refusing to give advice, to see exactly how this will help the other person. Then I can feel confident and in fact happy that I am refusing because I know that it is helping them more than if i would say something.

Summary

I might have made it sound difficult to give advice, but that is because it is difficult as with any responsibility. It is safer to approach it as such rather than not. This is also the reason that we value people that give good advice and should keep them closer – they are reliable.

Advise is also simple. When asking for advice people describe their world in that moment. You don’t need to do anything with that world, just observe and communicate back the issues you see. It also helps to include any useful information based on your experience if you know how the problem can be solved.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to give advise if you don’t feel there is much you can contribute. Doing it out of obligation can cause more damage. The best way is to live, experience and relate it to others’ problems when they ask for advice.

I would like to know what your experience is when giving advice and if you have any key points that you keep in mind when in that position. Let me know in the comments

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