However, we often hate getting advice, especially unsolicited ones. When we get it, we ignore them. As babies we like to do what we want and resort to temper tantrums when someone wants us to do something different. Once we get older we still do what we want but use language creatively to justify what we want. When we become adults, we don't suddenly become advice seekers. We may seek advice but what we really want is support.
What to do when someone wants your advice?
Laura Garnett, a life coach who developed "Zone of Genius" to help people achieve their best in life, said something interesting on the Unmistakable Creative podcast (32:20) with Srinivas Rao about her favorite tip which is to "give support, not advice." When we are vulnerable we often seek advice but the advice we get is someone's world view filtered through their knowledge, psychology and life experience. The advice you are going to receive is what someone would do; it may not be right for you; hence, you are better of getting their support.
People have already made up their minds when they come to you with something they are interested in doing. At this point, you don't want to say anything contrary to what they have already decided. If you do this, then they will resist hard and you may even feel offended if they don't take your advice. Instead, ask questions and listen; let them talk about how they reached a particular decision. If they are still set on their decision, then just provide support.
People don't like to change their minds. For most the pain of change is greater then the gain of change. You will be liked if you provide support even though you know they are making a mistake, but disliked if you try to change their minds when you know the right thing they should do. It is better to support them and be wrong than not to support and be right. You will be forgiven for the former but hated for the later. The reason for this is that everyone reaches a decision through their own knowledge, experience and psychology and you can't do much to change that. We all think we can and end up getting frustrated, so don't waste time doing it.
When it comes to advice, we typically give two types of advice: free and paid.
We love giving free advice to just about everything; however, when you give free advice, it is worth nothing to the person to whom you are giving, so don't give it, just provide support. Another reason is that it has cost you a lot of money, time and energy to be in a position to give advice to others. In the blog in Forbes titled, "No, You Can't Pick My Brain" by Adrienne Graham, she writes. "My brain costs money to maintain. There’s training, classes to attend, reading (I have to buy books), gaining certifications, costs of memberships so I can network, attending conferences and mastering my skills that all cost me money." A preferred approach is to refer them to your blogs, videos, podcasts, etc. If they can't pay, then ask them to write a blog or two for you; most will not take your offer. I have tried this and have never gotten any takers yet.
Paid Advice (consultant)
Some people make a good living giving advice, as they are commonly called consultants. When someone is paying you for an advice, you will find out that the best thing to do is to support the person who is paying you so he will feel good about your "advice" and will be willing to pay you even more the next time. This is how good consultants make a lot of money and are always in demand. People really want is your support not your advice even though they are paying for your advice.
Charging for advice is becoming common among freelancers according to Anna North in her article in New York Times titled, "Even Advice Isn't Free Anymore." She writes, "Charging for what might once have been informal counsel is becoming more common — and the growing freelance economy may be behind the shift."
Don't give advice to family members and friends
If people close to you wants to buy a stock, make an investment, change job, buy a car, get married, etc., and come to your for advice, you are going to be tempted to give free advice. Try hard to refrain from giving any advice. By the time they come to you, their mind is already made up. All you can do at this point is to support them so they end up feeling good about their decision and you also. Believe me I have gotten myself into a lot of trouble by giving advice to family members and they have not only ignored it but resent you for giving it. I have learned a hard lesson to not fall for this trap: You can't change people's minds even if you know them well.
How to get advice from successful people?
We all want to get advice from successful people but you have to remember that they are busy people and don't have time to get to know us well. Also they don't like to waste their time on someone who has not done his homework. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, writes in her book "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," a good advice she received from Josh Steiner, former Chief of Staff at the Treasury Department. that she writes about in her book. She writes, "He told me to figure out what I wanted to do before I went to see the people who had the ability to hire me. That way I would not waste my one shot seeking general guidance, but would be able to discuss specific opportunities that they could offer."
Sandberg also expects someone seeking her advice to have done their homework on her. She gives an example in her book of Garret Nieman, who started a company called CollegeSpring that provides SAT tutoring and counseling for low income students. He once approached Sandberg (who didn't know her) after she gave a speech at Stanford. Sandberg paid attention to Nieman.
Here is what Nieman did well with Sandberg that was effective. Sandberg describes the five rules of seeking advice from successful people using Nieman as an example:
- He made it clear that he only needed a few minutes of her time.
- He wanted to ask her if she can help with introductions to some people who could help expand his organization.
- He had done his homework and knew that Sandberg cared deeply about education.
- In their first meeting and in every interaction thereafter, Garrett was "crisp, focused, and gracious."
- He always followed up to let Sandberg know the results of their discussion.
These five rules can be used by just about anyone to get in touch with anyone. The main thing to remember is don't waste people's time and provide some value you can provide in someone giving you their time.
The Advice Checklist
In the blog titled, "5 Questions You Have to Answer Before Asking for Advice," Guy Winch, psychologist and author, lists five questions you have to ask yourself before you ask for advice:
Are you seeking advice or validation?
This all depends on how you ask the question. If your question indicates that you are leaning toward a particular solution, then you are looking for validation.
How should you phrase the question?
You don't want to question too general to your boss like, "How do I get promoted?" Instead, you want something like, "What kind of additional responsibility that you think I can take on to add additional value to the company?" The latter approach is more thoughtful and you are likely to get more specific answers and know what you have to do to get promoted.
Is the person relatively objective?
You want to ask someone who is balanced, experience and insightful. In addition, the person should know you well and can put himself in your shoes. You don't want to ask a good friend or a relative who may not want to hurt your feelings and lead you astray.
Is the person an expert?
You always want to ask someone who has the expertise but you want to make sure the expert knows your situation well otherwise the advice is what he would do not what he think si best for your specific situation.
How many people should you ask?
You want to limit the number since if you ask too many people, you will end up getting confused.
According to the blog in HBR titled "Win Over an Opponent by Asking Advice" by Katie Liljenquist and Adam Galinsky they recommend following reasons to seek advice:
1. Advisors will like you more
People will be willing to give you their expert opinion if you just ask. This is true but how do you they know what you really want? Will they spend time understanding your true need? How do you know they even have any expertise?
2. Advisors are able to see things from your perspective
People can only do this if they spend a lot of time with you. Without that, they may even steer you in the wrong direction.
3. Advisors become a champion for your cause
People who give advice feel invested and are likely to champion your cause. This will only work if your views are aligned with your advisors. This can also be used to manipulate your advisors to support you.
I think a better approach is to ask the person seeking advice present you with three options and rank them. Then have the person explain each option and give you its pros and cons. By having the person talk through each option, the person will come up with the option he prefers and all you did was guide them through the process of making a decision. What you need to remember is that you are not the other person so you don't think like the person and how he came to a particular decision. Though this is difficult to do, you want to make the person look at his situation objectively rather than subjectively.
Did you give any advice in this case? No.
Did you support the person who came to you for advice? Yes.
Next time if someone comes to you for an advice, remember you are there to support them., not give any advice. This way everyone will be happy and have a good conversation and remain in good standing.