Friday, April 18, 2014

on giving advice

Last week I blogged about asking for advice, and the best ways to do that - and since I had recently had the opportunity to ask some of my mentors for advice, it seemed like a timely topic to explore.  During this week, I had the chance to GIVE ADVICE to some of my colleagues, advice that had actually been asked for and solicited (as opposed to the "unsolicited" advice we often give to others).  I think that I am the type of person who would rather ask for advice than give it (I know that might make some of my colleagues laugh), but it actually felt good to give advice to these few people this week.  As I was reflecting on my opportunities to help others (at least I hope that is what I was able to do), I thought I might share a few ideas this week on how to best give advice.  Remember that this is coming from one who would rather receive advice than give it, so while I a not an expert, I believe I have a few things to goes:

  • If not asked directly for advice, always ask permission of the other person if they are willing to listen to your thoughts
  • When asked for advice, take a moment to consider whether or not you should - you may not have an expertise in the areas being asked for, you may be prejudiced in some manner and give less than good advice, or it may not be the best time for the person asking for advice to hear what you want to say
  • Less is more (even when you have more to share)
  • Just as in any good dialogue, use "I" messages
  • Remind yourself - and the person to whom you are giving the advice - that you might be wrong
  • Be as specific as you can...and ask if the person wants specific advice or just wants to think out loud with you on the topic
  • While you may be an expert on the topic, always remain don't know everything
  • Remember that the person asking for advice has just made themselves vulnerable - be careful where you tread during this time
  • Sometimes it might be okay to ask for some time and then to get back with this person - it gives you space to think through your answer
  • The person who asks for advice deserves your best advice - take the time to think through what you are going to say...and only say what you are sure about.
  • If you are in a position of power with this person (i.e. you are their supervisor) you need to be EXTRA careful, because anything you say could be interpreted as  something you want them to do and something on which their performance might be evaluated
  • Before diving into giving advice, ask some clarifying questions...this will allow you to give advice on what they really are asking about, not just on what you think they are asking about
  • Thank them for their willingness to open up to you, and for the opportunity they have given you to think about these issues out loud - giving advice is a learning process for the advice giver as well as the advice receiver
What am I missing?  Feel free to chime in, add your thoughts, and give me and others some advice on how to best give advice.  

A blessed Good Friday to each of you...this is one of my favorite days of the church year as it fully prepares me to understand the joy that comes with the festival of the Resurrection in just a few more days!

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