So many of my blog and book readers, and social media followers all seem to have something in common: being high achievers.  One thing that high-achievers are very used to is getting asked for advice.  I took part in many seminars this year and one of my strongest takeaways was: if something comes easy or naturally to you, it is likely your strength.  If you are the friend, family member, or professional that is constantly being asked for tips and advice, it is clearly a strength of yours to give the people what they want!

I pride myself on my ability to listen, without judgment, and provide support in the best way I possibly can.  Seeking and giving advice are central aspects of strong leadership and pivotal to decision making.

Being an advice giver is empowering.  You have the opportunity to be a catalyst for positive change in someone’s life.  You can give someone the courage to act.  However, to be a truly strong advice giver, you must overcome your own deeply ingrained opinions.  What is best for you may not always be what is best for someone else – and that’s OK!

To both give and receive advice, there needs to be a certain level of emotional intelligence, self-awareness, respect, and patience.  At times, missteps in the advice giving or receiving process can lead to frustration, strained relationships, and even indecisiveness.

Some of the largest hurdles advice seekers face are:

  1. Thinking you have all the answers. This will prevent you from digesting the advice you are being given and potentially hold you back.
  2. Seeking the wrong people for advice. If you always seek out someone that thinks like you, you are not likely to advance in your problem you need advice on.  Sometimes getting outside your comfort zone and seeking out someone that has been through the situation before, or a complete and total outsider could be the best option.
  3. Poorly explaining the problem. If seeking advice, you must be able to clearly define what you are asking for advice on.  Being vague or shy about the issue will not help you receive proper advice to advance.
  4. Discounting or misjudging advice. People sometimes tend to find advice judgmental.  It is important not to discount advice you are given without properly digesting it.  You should never midjudge advice, as it could be higher quality than you originally interpret it as.

A set of 4 studies done by Michael Schaerer have concluded that giving advice can make you feel more powerful and increase your confidence.

Here are the 5 steps I take when I offer advice:

  1. Listen.  Good listening skills are imperative to being a good advice giver.
  2. Discern.  Asking questions is the best way to discern the situation.  Is this person coming to you simply to vent, or do they truly want advice?  This is an important distinction to make as it is a fine line to walk between the two.  This is the point where it is best to say “I am not qualified to give advice on this topic/issue” if it is not something you are comfortable with.
  3. Advise.  Clearly communicate what you think is the best advice you can give with the information you have.  Simply offer an informed and unbiased recommendation.
  4. Evaluate.  Reflect on the situation and see if there is anything else you can do or say to be helpful.  Maintain the advice seeker’s privacy and also, don’t let their personal situation bring you down.  It is not your job to be anyone’s savior just because they seek out your input.
  5. Release.  Do not take offense if the advice seeker does not take your advice.  You have done all you can by giving them your suggestions and point of view.  It is rare that an advice seeker hears advice and runs with it and is done.  Normally there needs to be feedback from more than one person, and then modifications and combinations of the advice received.  Whatever path they take, it is ultimately their choice.  You can never fully understand what someone is going through, so if they do not choose to follow your advice, it is more a reflection on them than on you.  Your advice may not always be the best fit for everyone.

Giving advice is like being a driver’s education teacher.  Your goal is to provide insight and guidance while hoping the advice seeker acts independently based on your knowledge.  Giving advice is rarely a one-and-done transaction.  It is more of a creative, collaborative process requiring understanding and often times, an ongoing conversation.

Here are my top tips for giving advice:

  1. Be respectful. Never talk down to an advice seeker and always appreciate their situation.
  2. Get to the point. Try to give advice in a private setting, in ample time.  Your time is valuable and so is the time of the advice seeker.
  3. Make it inspirational. Inspiration makes us feel good and can lead to a more positive advice giving/seeking transaction.
  4. Use your own experiences. Advice works best when it’s personal.  Your own experiences are the best stories you can tell.
  5. Always refer/relate back to their issue at hand. This helps people to know you are really listening and shows them how whatever you are saying can relate to them.
  6. Have some emotion! This requires a certain level of vulnerability on your part.  If someone is coming to you for advice, they are likely feeling vulnerable themselves.  Emotion can unite us and bring us closer together.

If giving advice is your strength, be sure to take your own advice sometimes.  Many advice givers don’t feel that anyone can give as strong of advice as they do.  Frequently, the best advice given is about self-care.  “Take time for yourself.”  “Focus on yourself right now.”  “Don’t forget to take care of yourself.”  Every so often, when you find yourself struggling to find who to go to for advice, or any type of guidance, check-in with yourself.  Try to consider what you would tell a friend, family member, or co-worker in the same situation and listen to your own advice.