Advice is the cheapest commodity available out there. The simple reason being that it costs nothing and everyone has it in abundance. Right from your colleagues, friends, parents, siblings, boss, teachers, and philosophers everyone has an advice about anything and everything. You just need to ask and you have people waiting to share their bit of advice with you. Sometimes even when it’s unsolicited you can be assured that people would be eager to share their bits with you. I was listening to one of my favourite personal growth mentors and as paradoxical as it might sound, the advice that I got about advice is DON’T GIVE IT!
Every day we have our friends, colleagues and family members who approach us and share their problems, challenges and issues they have in their life or at work. The natural tendency for most is to immediately start providing solutions to people’s problems. I’m guilty of this and my wife will tell you all about it. Most of us are not even listening to what is being said and are only eager to provide answers even before we have heard the other person. You may argue that you don’t do it. You may not say anything but you are probably already analysing the information in your head and ready to download it on the other person as soon as he or she is finished.
So what was the best advice I received on handling situations when you are asked for advice. There are essentially 4 elements on dealing with these situations
Be present in both mind and body with the conversation. We have been so entrapped that we find it difficult to have an uninterrupted conversation without being distracted. I’ve seen so many conversations where people are busy fidgeting with their phones, checking emails, chatting while the other person is trying to talk. Apart from being rude and disrespectful to the other person, this also prevents you from grasping all that is being said. We have all heard that the greatest communicators are the ones who can listen. So the next time you are talking to someone just be in the moment and give the other person your undivided attention. This by itself will make the other person important.
Acknowledge their feelings.
Another common response that I see (once again I’m equally guilty) is trying to undermine what the person is feeling or going through emotionally. This is not something which we do intentionally. Our intentions are usually benign and we want to make the other person feel good. But by saying things like “Oh that’s not something you should worry about” or “ Don’t Worry, It will be Fine” or “ Come on it can’t be that bad”, etc. all you will end up doing is making the person more miserable and lower their self-esteem and self-confidence. Don’t try to tell them how they should feel or think. Instead acknowledge their feelings and emotions and give them assurance that you can see that they are angry, upset, disturbed, frustrated, sad or whatever the emotion they are going through. The point here is that every person reacts to situations in different ways and to them that is the only way they know on how to react. So if you acknowledge their emotions, it is the first step in helping them with recovering.
This one is a tricky one. We all know how to ask questions but most of the times the intention is for us to understand what the other person is feeling. The issue with this is that even if you understood what the person is feeling, you cannot really experience what they are feeling. Ask questions which will help the person understand their own situation. Ask open ended questions which will help the person open his mind and think about possibilities and options to deal with the situation at hand.
If the person struggles to come up with options and answers during the conversation, the next step is offer perspectives to them. A perspective is one way of doing something. It could be based on your own past experiences or of someone else whom you have seen deal with a similar situation. The key here is to point out the various possibilities and give the person choices with the pros and cons for each choice. DO NOT make the choice for the person. The choice has to be of the individual. The simple reason for this is that each person brings with them a different set of beliefs, strengths, weakness, values and way of living. Your choice or solution will be attuned to how you would deal with the situation. But this may not be appropriate for the other person. For example if you are a go-getter, you may advice the person to go head one and deal with the situation. While this may play to your strengths, it could ask as a recipe for disaster for the other person probably because he is someone who is not as direct when it comes to dealing with life issues.
So take my advice and the next time someone walks up to you seeking advice, take a step back and remember the 4 simple steps.