How many times do people come to you for advice, only to simply go on with their lives and totally ignore the advice you gave them?
Sadly, it happens far too often!
People like to ask others for advice typically as a sounding board to run their own ideas past someone else, rather than genuinely seeking advice. This puts you in the awkward position of giving advice that just gets ignored—which can be frustrating for you if it happens often.
But did you know that you can actually change the way you give advice so that it’s more likely to be heeded? It’s all about approaching the advice-giving process in a different way than you have been until now, and framing it in a way that they will actually want to take the advice, even if they didn’t intend to follow through when they first came to you.
Here is how you can go through the advice-giving process the right way, which will increase the chances that people will actually heed what you say:
Step 1: Get Permission – Sometimes people come to you under the guise of asking for advice, but really what they want is to vent or rant to someone who understands them, or someone who can empathize with what they’re feeling. Before you offer advice, feel out the person’s mood and see if they actually want advice or just a listening ear.
Give them a small window to vent their frustration, irritation, or fear, and make sure that they feel heard before you ever say a word. Before you offer advice, ask them for permission to do so. They will be more inclined to listen and follow through if they feel like they have at least some control in the situation. Don’t just throw your advice at them—no matter how good it is or how effectively it will fix their situation—unless they’re willing to hear it.
Step 2: Start With Empathy – People need to feel heard and understood if they’re going to be open to the advice you have to offer. Make sure that they know that you relate to them and their difficulties. You may not know exactly how they feel, but you can empathize with their struggles or whatever challenge they’re facing.
Most important of all, focus on empathy and steer clear of judgement. Never say “You should have…” or ask “Why didn’t you…?” That will immediately set them on the defensive and make them more resistant to your advice.
Step 3: Consider Who You’re Advising – Some people like simple, cut-and-dry 1-2-3-step processes that they can follow through immediately. Others, however, like to examine the problem and find their own way to the solution, and you’re just there to guide them.
Before you give an answer, think about who you’re advising. Are they the sort of person who responds to a more direct approach, or does the indirect emotional appeal work better than logic? The way you answer their question will have a huge impact on how well they implement your advice.
Step 4: Combine Humility and Authority – Whenever we’re giving advice, we like to think we’re offering it from a place of authority. As a leader, it’s likely you do wield a great deal of authority, which is likely why the person came to you for advice. However, you need to be careful that the authority doesn’t come off as arrogance!
You might have more experience, training, and knowledge, but presenting your advice from a position of superiority is guaranteed to ruin things. After all, no one wants to be talked down to or condescended to, and they certainly didn’t come to you just so you can explain to them how you’re so much better than they are.
Make sure to approach the situation with humility. Don’t overwhelm them with how much better, smarter, or wiser you are, but make sure that they know that it’s just your opinion or take on the situation. Humility and a “soft touch” will go a long way in these situations!
Step 5: Respect Them – This is another reason never to ask “Why didn’t you…?” or say “You should have…” Doing so is a form of disrespect, as it’s approaching the problem from a mindset of “I figured this out already, so why didn’t you?”
They came to you because they respect you, and that respect should be mutual. Show them the respect of giving them an answer that is free of judgement or arrogance. Recognize that they’ve doubtless been chewing over this problem for a while, and they’ve tried or consider a number of solutions that you probably haven’t even begun to consider. They have a set of skills and knowledge that you don’t, and they’ve tried to apply those to the problem. Now, they’ve come to you because you could offer a fresh perspective, but not a better one.
Talk to them with respect when offering your advice, and they’re far more likely to take it!
Step 6: Let it Be a Discussion – No one wants to hear “the perfect answer” from someone else. Instead, they’ll hear advice and it will spark an idea or thought in their minds. They’ll want to discuss the advice or figure out how to practically implement it.
If you give advice expecting them to take it and run with it in its original form, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, approach it from the perspective of “My advice is going to help them think and start a conversation.” If you can give advice and use it as a springboard to drive contemplation and discussion, it will be far less like you’re telling them what to do and instead come across as you’re working with them to help solve their problems. They’re more likely to take your advice with that approach!