Good morning and happy Monday!
When I determined this week’s missive would be about giving advice, I had to chuckle when I came across a quote by P.G. Wodehouse, an English author, who said: “I always advise people never to give advice.” I chuckled because the concept I had in mind involved the risks associated with giving advice, no matter how wise or well-intended.
To be clear, let me say up front, this article is not about “not giving” advice as Pelham Wodehouse stated above! Certainly, we should share our experience and insights with others when it is both helpful and desired.
In my opinion, good parents, friends, coaches, managers, and leaders willingly seek out opportunities to help others succeed. And helping others succeed often involves sharing advice. Even this article about giving advice… is a form of advice.
The gist of this article is about thinking twice prior to offering our advice to others. So, why should we think twice before offering others our advice? Following a few questions for your consideration:
- Is the person seeking advice or simply in need of a sounding board? Sometimes people do indeed want the benefit of your experience, insights, and wisdom in the form of advice. At other times, people merely want you to be a good listener, or to serve as a sounding board, as they talk things through. Be careful not to assume they want your advice; they may just want a caring ear.
- Do you fully understand the complexity of the issue at hand? Most of us tend to be anxious to help solve problems with simple solutions and quick advice. Problems are rarely simple. Solutions are almost always complex. I invite you to pay attention to how often, and how quickly, your brain begins racing ahead to a solution when someone begins sharing a situation with you. Almost immediately, we tend to stop listening fully (while the person continues to speak) as our brains begin to prepare an eloquent and brilliant sounding response in the form of advice.Our brains seem to be hard-wired to jump to simple conclusions which may be way off the mark. Imagine how dangerous it would be for a doctor to prescribe medications, or a medical procedure, without a full and complete diagnosis of underlying conditions, not just surface-level symptoms. And yet, most of us are guilty of this infraction when dispensing advice. I expect better from my doctors. Others expect better from us. Before you begin offering advice, listen better, dig deeper, ask better questions.
“Advice is like snow – the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- Is your ego in check? I can only speak for myself here, but I do know my brain gets a hit of dopamine whenever someone asks for my opinion or advice. Just like the feeling I get from eating a big bowl of ice cream, it just feels good. Does that ever happen to you? Our brains love dopamine bumps no matter the source. If we’re not careful, our desire to find repositories for our sage advice can be addicting.Remember, when giving advice, it is not about us, nor how brilliant we sound. Giving advice should always be about helping others in a way that is helpful to them.
- Does your willingness to offer advice limit a person’s growth and development? It is important to note that sometimes, in our willingness to help others, our advice may rob them of an opportunity for growth and development.I never liked high school algebra because our teacher would make us work out our problems, in front of our peers, on the classroom chalkboards. (Yes, I’m that old, whiteboards weren’t invented yet) While it was almost always embarrassing for me, I understood the teacher’s goal was not to provide us with the correct answers and easy solutions, but to teach us how to solve “our problems” on our own.If someone is always coming into your office seeking your advice, it could be because you have taught them this is all they need to do. They may have learned you’re quite willing to solve their problems, on their behalf. Now their problem is your problem which is perhaps a topic for another day.
“Nothing is more confusing than people who give good advice but set a bad example.”
– Norman Vincent Peale
I am grateful for the wonderful advice and wisdom I have learned from others throughout my life and career, including the algebra teacher I mentioned above. My hope is to pay forward a small fraction of all that I have learned from others.
As always, thank you for your time, interest, and feedback. I will always welcome your thoughts and pass on to other readers when possible.
How will you live, love, or lead, differently, or better, this week?
Related MMM articles:
- Click here to read: Am I a Good Coach?
- Click here to read: Prologue; Am I a Good Coach?
- Click here to read: Experience; Against the Wind
I also recommend a book and Ted Talk, both by Michael Bungay Stanier:
- Click here to watch Ted Talk – How to Tame Your Advice Monster?
- Click here for book: The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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Click here to sign up for my weekly leadership message entitled Monday Morning Minute.
- “Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example.” – François de La Rochefoucauld
- “It’s easier to advise than be advised.” —Unknown
- “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” —Benjamin Franklin
- “Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.” —Harper Lee & Publilius Syrus
- “Seek advice but use your own common sense.” —Yiddish Proverb
- “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” —Will Rogers
- “Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties.” —Aesop
- “It takes a great man to give sound advice tactfully, but a greater to accept it graciously.” — C. Macaulay
- “We give advice by the bucket but take it by the grain.” —William Rounseville Alger
- “To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.” —John Churton Collin
- “A person that does not value your time will not value your advice.” —Orrin Woodward
- “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.” —Oscar Wilde
- “Most of the advice people give is worthless, but their inner “Advice Monster” insists on giving it anyway.” — Michael Bungay Stanier
- “All the advice in the world will never help you until you help yourself.” —Fred Van Amburgh
- “Listen to your elder’s advice. Not because they are always right but because they have more experiences of being wrong.” —Unknown