Advice? It’s an Artform.

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Advice?  It’s an Artform

ADVICE.  It sounds like a simple topic yet giving and receiving advice is a mine field or should I say MIND field which potentially disables otherwise healthy relationships.

Think back to the last time you received unsolicited advice.  I bet it didn’t feel good regardless of the topic.   As soon as I hear “YOU SHOULD”, my hackles go up.  I stop listening.  It’s like you’re holding my arms down and force feeding me worms.  Stop already!  I am super sensitive to you know-it-all “do gooders” that try to tell me what to do!

Because I am sensitive to unsolicited advice givers, I try to mind my P’s and Q’s and keep quiet.  If I had to guess, I would say that the catalyst for giving unsolicited advice likely falls into one of three categories:

1) POWER PLAY.  The need to be the authority figure or the need to feel important.

2) DRAMA QUEEN.  The “need to be needed” a monster fed on a strict “drama diet”.

3) ALTRUISTIC DO-GOODER.  An eager but authentic desire to help.

So what if you are asked to provide advice?  Is there a good way to offer your thoughts without blowing up the MIND field?


Then when you do speak up, you address the topic from your own experience.  “I found or I did” over “you should”.  Speak from your truth.  The recipient takes what they want and leaves the rest.    The quality of your advice has nothing to do with their actions. You are not tied to their outcome.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you don’t know if you are being asked for advice???  If in doubt you can say, “do you want to know what I think?” And then be prepared to stop talking if they say no!  (easier said than done!)  Engage brain before engaging mouth.  I find myself in this position quite often with my boys.

Please, only give sincere advice that you support and would follow yourself!  Be credible.  If not, your words feel cheap.  There is no other way I can think to describe it. I can smell “cheap” a mile away!  Save your breath.

Now the flipside……you are the advice seeker. You are looking for guidance so consider this:

  1. The SOURCE.  Am I asking the right person for advice?  I wouldn’t ask my son for parenting advice nor would you want me to give you advice on your investment portfolio.   Am I going to someone that is afraid to tell me the truth? Do I trust that they will have my best interest in mind?  That they will be honest!

2. Feeling RESISTANCE.  If I run up against resistance, I know there is something else going on and I probably need guidance.  This week I was asked to complete a task where I could hear my brain saying, “and what good will come of this project? Waste of my time.”   I was feeling threatened in a way that I couldn’t put my finger on so the only thing to do was to surrender; get outside of my own thinking.  I talked to a colleague and his advice helped me see another angle. Ultimately I spent less energy obtaining a fresh perspective than a would have spent fighting with my resistance.  To clarify, if you are not open to the advice you seek, don’t ask for help.

3. Underlying MOTIVATION.  I have to admit that there have been a few times when I asked for advice but I was really seeking validation.  I wanted someone to tell me, “you have done everything you can” or “you are right”.  There too have been times when I just needed to vent but my request was disguised as a plea for help.  I wanted someone to commiserate with yet they couldn’t get a word in edgewise because I needed to get it all out!  Finally, there are a few instances where I had to say something out loud to “make it real” and put gas in my emotional tank.  So if you don’t really want advice, better to recognize it before you go asking for it!

In closing, I’d love to know the best piece of advice you have ever received.  Please share!  For me, the one that sticks in my head is when my Dad told me to take a job offer in California.  He said, “Give it a try and if you don’t like after a year, you can always come home to Michigan.  The important thing is to try it out.”  That was in 1987 and I’ve never left the Bay Area!  However, once a Midwesterner, always a Midwesterner!

From the heart,