Dear Style & Substance:
Since you are experts in the advice business I thought you would have the answer to my question. Why do people ask me for my advice and then not take it? I am someone who naturally listens to people’s problems and am always asked for advice. I try to be thoughtful and diplomatic when giving it. Really, why bother asking if you don’t want to hear the truth. Do you ever get frustrated when people don’t listen?
We love your question and it reminds us that there are definitely givers, getters and sharers of advice out there! You must be a compassionate person, along with a good listener. We have found that many people just want to give voice to their problems and they are simply seeking someone who will listen and validate their feelings.
One key in giving advice, is to let go of your expectation of that person’s response. Advice is a possibility, not an absolute. The advice seeker may not take your advice, that does not mean she or he did not respect your opinion, it only means she or he took a different path to resolution.
We all have choices in life and you are just articulating options that they might take. We find this quote to be quite helpful:
“The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right”
– Hannah Whitall Smith
Since the definition of advice is “an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action”, you expect action. There is a lot of risk in altering a life path; and when a person seems immobile in their action-response, it doesn’t mean that his/her emotional/mental-response is not hard at work. Leaving the judgment/action out of your hands, means that you are really wanting what is best for your friend.
Advice is requested because somebody close to us has a need; and anytime there is a need there is vulnerability. People will ask your advice because they respect you and your opinion and experiences, and most importantly, because there is trust. The trust somebody places in another when asking advice is foundational to the relationship. Because of this vulnerability, the advice giver must proceed with the intention of truthfulness and compassion.
Some great general rules of thumb in giving advice are:
•Be an active listener, gather and clarify all of the facts; be prepared to hear more as the conversation unfolds.
•Put yourself in the other’s position, you make act differently in your own situations, but this takes the seeker’s personal life and unique history into account.
•What might the long term and short term consequences be if another takes or leaves your advice? Maybe discuss this as part of your offering. This could also be an exercise in pros and cons, which is a helpful technique for helping yourself or others in the future.
•Have empathy, this means that you genuinely care about your friends’ well- being and leaves the decisions up to the individual.
•Brainstorm solutions - the seeker then gains control over his/her possible choices. The advice seeker becomes an active participant in the process. It also generates lots of possible solutions and it may bring clarity and resolution.
•Set a good example by living your life as authentically as you speak.
When you become highly frustrated with those who seem to always have the same problems, but never seem to make any changes or want to seek alternatives, you may start to avoid them.
A better approach may be preparing kind words to point out what you consider the obvious. This is where tact and being comfortable with your own personal approach become key.
Additionally, you may sometimes get in the trap of feeling like you need to give advice when someone is expressing sadness, loss, frustration or dismay, and this is a choice you can make…to simply just listen.
One of our favorite pieces of writing, offers depth to issues of friendship, compassion and advice, and comes from Psalm 85:
Justice and Peace shall kiss, Truth shall spring out of the earth. Kindness and Truth shall meet, Justice shall look down from the heavens."
A S K
Style & Substance:
Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer
creative life coaching solutions
Email your questions or request a life coaching appointment to email@example.com for more information: visit our website at yourstyleandsubstance.com