The Secret to Giving Advice

“Let me give you some advice.”

What do you think when someone says that to you? How does it make you feel? What do you want to say to the person who says that?

As a consulting psychologist, I have frequently screwed this up. Just one example I can think of. As the client goes into another frustrating meeting with the software vendor on a project that is escalating out of control with “creeping elegance” I said, “You might want to consider scrapping this whole project.”

My advice was not well taken or received.

So, what’s the secret to giving advice? Make sure they are ready for the advice. That means they are talking about a problem they recognize they have and are looking for solutions. Better yet, you have even checked in and asked, “Would you like to hear my thoughts about this?” And the other person says, “Yes” and it looks like they really mean it.

Now they may be ready for some advice. But go slowly, have a questioning tone in how you give it. Don’t get too far ahead of the other person. Watch how they are reacting to your advice. Pause, let them respond. Remember, you do want them to consider your advice.

Make sure your motives are pure. We may have the best of intentions in offering to give someone advice. That’s how the road to hell got paved.

Why does being thoughtful about giving advice matter? Are you trying to help or do you just want to show how smart you are? If you want to help the other person, think before you jump in with your brilliant solution. One of my favorite sayings is:

“When the student is ready…the teacher appears.”