Did You Know That People Hate Advice
I appreciate this post title may sound bizarre coming from me. This blog, after all, is loosely referred to as an advice blog and in real life I am someone people often come to with their problems. As a new friend remarked to me recently: "you sure do give a lot of advice, don't you?".
Well yes, sort of. On here, sure, there is something of a didactic dynamic. Invariably I write about a problem that I have experienced, muse upon arriving to a solution, and then invite you to try out said solution in your own life. What is that, if not giving advice?
But I have come to learn that true advice giving involves very little instruction. People – in general, although I admit this varies from situation to situation – just do not want to be told explicitly what to do. For one thing, do you really know what the best course of action for others should be? What gives me the right to know what is best for you? It is incredibly easy to stand on the outside with an objective point of view, formulating some grand plan for the hopeless soul caught up in circumstance, when in reality subjectivity is an incredibly important aspect. Without taking the time to truly understand the nuances of that person's feelings, the 'best' (if such a thing were to exist) solution will not necessarily be arrived upon. Figuring out your own plan is infinitely preferable: you are the only person who will know what you are comfortable with, and what makes you happiest. This is where a good advice giver comes in.
In my opinion, a good advice giver empowers the other person to decide on the course of action they are happiest with. The best way to do this is by asking questions, ones that probe towards discovering how the receiver really feels about what is going on. Even if you think you have experienced the same as someone else, chances are the dynamics differ slightly, and coaxing out a well rounded picture of the problem is the first step. Discover as much as the other person feels comfortable divulging, before asking them what they want to do about it. If they say they don't know, explore different alternatives together. Questions really are the strongest weapon in your arsenal for conquering the conundrum your friend finds themselves in. Sometimes the simple act of asking opens up avenues that they had not explored before.
What does this look like in reality? Well listening skills are key here, but most it involves questions like "what do you want to change about this?" or "what feels best for you right now?". When offering up possibilities, simply rephrase them to "I wonder if X,Y, Z would help?" or "Have you thought about trying..?". Perhaps they already have, and dismissed the idea for reasons you don't yet know, or maybe you will have inspired a clear way forward for them.
There is also another reason I find this more helpful, and that's actually from the point of view of the advice giver. For one, imagine that your advice turned out to be completely the wrong thing to do. If you steered your friend into it, how would you feel? But more than that is the phenomenon I've noticed with some people around me, including two good friends right now. It can be incredibly frustrating when someone turns to us time and time again, and yet never takes the advice we offer up to them. You invariably end up annoyed, feeling like your contribution was worth nothing. By taking yourself one step back, and letting the other person decide with you, you remove the sense of ownership on a solution and that is honestly better for both of you.
So perhaps people don't hate advice, they may just not relish it in the form that we traditionally think of. Advice giving is a valuable act, my friend was not unfair to say that it constitutes a significant part of my life, but I have made a conscious effort to move towards methods in which the most affected figures it out. The crucial aspect of this process is keeping a safe space open for them to explore within. Remain non judgemental, and invite them to work through their thinking. Who knows what they'll come up with, but at least you're safe in the knowledge that you've helped them help themselves.