How Helpful Is Your Advice?

Regardless of how well-intentioned we might have been, it’s likely that each of us has offered advice that wasn’t particularly helpful.

This blog post was triggered by a conversation with a self-proclaimed overachiever. He said that his dad told him to stop putting so much pressure on himself.

In a similar vein, who among us haven’t, at one time or another, been told:

  • Just buckle down and do it.
  • Stop procrastinating, just do it!
  • Get over yourself.
  • Don’t let fear stop you from pursuing what you desire.

All are sage advice except for one thing…they don’t tell you how to do it. The people offering this advice aren’t offering a process for achieving what the advice suggests. Telling me not to be afraid without telling me how I can overcome fear isn’t helpful.

I can’t stop procrastinating until I realize that procrastination indicates that I’m asking myself to do something I don’t enjoy. Until I have that realization I don’t know that I should be looking for alternatives that make the task more enjoyable. Or, absent a more enjoyable alternative, hiring someone to perform the task.

Helpful advice

In order for advice to be helpful, it must include a process for overcoming whatever obstacle the person is facing.

The overachiever came to believe he could set aside more time for himself when he realized that he wasn’t honoring commitments to himself…to give himself the gift of time to enjoy what interests him. Simply telling him to change wasn’t useful because he had no clue as how to go about it. As he said “If I knew, I’d have done it already.” But when he realized that he wasn’t honoring his commitments to himself, he felt more confident in his ability to change.

For you

In the future, before giving well-intentioned advice, pause a moment and ask yourself “Is this advice helpful? Does it include a process, a methodology, to help the person do what I’m suggesting?”

If so, give the advice. If not, add a methodology to the advice that might help the person. Notice that I said “might help.” Often our first suggestion doesn’t deal with the real reason the person isn’t acting in his/her own best interest. But by offering a suggestion, we open the door to a dialogue that leads to a more appropriate approach to helping them take action.

For our kids

As you hear them offer advice to their friends and siblings, if they offer suggestions on how to accomplish what they suggest congratulate them. Let them know that their advice is helpful because it includes a methodology for achieving the goal.

If not, ask them “If you were given that advice, would you know what to do?” By asking them the question you help them realize that without a methodology, advice isn’t helpful.

The more helpful we all become at offering advice, the more good we do for the people we’re trying to help.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs.

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program.

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