The science of giving advice without scaring someone off
I am known to be direct and often blunt in my answers. I do try to not give my opinion when I am not asked and I warn people who do ask that my answers may be short, and possibly seem harsh. Since English is my second language, it’s often difficult for me to find “nice” words, rather than exact words. Despite all that, however, more often than not, my friends, associates, and clients appreciate my openness and honesty.
Even when you may not have the softest delivery method, there is still a way of giving someone advice without making them feel as if you’re judging them, or telling them they’re wrong. Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the years about giving advice in a way that is actually helpful, rather than frustrating.
1.) Ask if your advice is wanted
We all love to share our knowledge and help people but that doesn’t mean others want to hear it. Asking first shows respect for your audience, and ensures your advice is both needed and appreciated, so you’re not running around wasting time.
2.) Don’t just advise, also compliment
Don’t limit what you say to only those things you think someone needs to change, or could do better.Start out with some compliments and sprinkle a few more in between your advice. This will not only help strengthen your relationship with the person you’re advising, but it will also build their trust in you, since they know that you notice both the good and the bad. When someone comes to you asking for advice, they’re putting themselves in a somewhat vulnerable position, and can easily become defensive if they feel as though they’re being attacked. Be honest, but fair, and give them the space they need to process what you’re saying from an objective standpoint.
3.) Remember there is more than one way to reach a goal
This is your opinion and approach. Make sure to remember there are always multiple solutions to a problem and your way of thinking might not fit the person you are trying to help. Just because someone asks for your advice doesn’t mean they’re going to follow it, and if they choose not to, it doesn’t mean it was a waste of your time. Just as you have the right to solicit advice from multiple sides of a situation and choose what you think is best for you, so does the person you’re advising. Don’t take it personally if they choose not to follow your recommendations.
4.) Be honest and straight forward
Don’t try to make the message “easier” by talking around it. Someone just asked for your opinion, give it to them in a precise and efficient manner. Talking around the problem or thing you would change will just water down the advice and often the actual point you are trying to make will get lost in all the chatter.
5.) Put yourself in their shoes, listen, and be real.
We all have an ego about our passion projects. There is a reason why they did things the way they did. But they are probably also aware that no one is perfect. Giving advice to someone is a fine balance between being the voice of clarity and realizing when someone steps back from the conversation and it’s time to stop talking. Don’t be afraid to share a bit about your own losses and failures (just remember to keep it short – this is not about you). Even though someone may come to you because they think you’re an expert, they still want to work with a human, and sharing the fact that you’re not infallible can help bridge that gap.
It makes you real and even though you are the “expert” it makes you human and relateable.
Most importantly? Be kind! Answering honestly and directly doesn’t mean you have to be an a** . When you give advice from a place of understanding and a sincere desire to help, people’s trust in you will continue to grow, and they will keep coming back for more!