Let me give you some advice about a very complicated topic: ADVICE! It is an area where you can destroy many things or build real and vivid relationships. First of all i want to step on the shoulders of giants: stop your advice monster (a big THANK YOU again to Michael B. Stanier for this great metaphor from The Coaching Habit). Advice monster? Yes, giving advice is an art and you should not give it without permission and only if you are really forced to give it. But the most of us have a little monster on the shoulder, which is pushing us to give advice even if nobody asked for. It is our habit to give advice. Whenever you do it, the others, or better the advice recipients, will give their responsibility to you… and you guess it, you will take their chance to grow by this.
Let’s dive quick into the topic: whenever somebody shows up and asks for advice, take the time for them. If it is not possible right now, make an appointment soon. Give the people the respect you would want to get and care! Step back from just saying “do this and that” towards listening and lifting up your fellows. Be flexible with the following steps – some people or situations need more, some people need less. Experiment with the process and try to find out what works best for you and in your surrounding. Be transparent about this experimentation by telling “let us try this and that”.
In my eyes it is appropriate to be happy, that somebody came to you with her problem. It is showing the big trust in you (or the arising one). As consequence thankfulness should be your attitude. This helps you later on being open and really helping.
Try to be as generous as possible. To the ones who come to you and the ones they might have trouble with. We are all humans and mistakes are human too. Even if you don’t like somebody it seems a good habit to assume always the best intents and freeing your mind towards those people.
The easy steps
Step one: Listen actively
First and most important of all: listen! But not just sitting around and waiting, be as curious as possible. Ask over and over again about more side parts or in depth. How should you be useful, if you don’t understand the full problem? And you will not understand it fully… never 🙂
Step two: Open new options
Whatever came up in the discussion till now, somehow we don’t want to stay at the problem stage (side note: in the great book Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making the problem opening phase is followed by a grown zone, which should not extended to long). We need solutions! Those are made of possible options to solve the problem. Help your asker to see as much ways as you can to get out of the dark seas. Start maybe with “What do you think we could do about it?” to open space for own ideas. In my experience those are most fitting and sustained ones. If there are more solutions which aren’t found by their own, offer them in a friendly way by asking “Do you think this could work too?”.
Step three: Help deciding which option to choose
From here you will observe a wide range of possible things which could happen: from “Thank you so much, i will go this way!” to being completely overwhelmed and not able to decide. When in doubt, ask for every possible solution “What will change for now and in the future, if we go this way?”. Closely listen and note the things which come up. When you’ve talked about every useful solution, the question to answer is “Which way points to the best possible (or sometimes least bad) future?”. If there is such a solution and the advice seeker has a good feeling about it, you’ve made it. Ask again, if there is something left. Sometimes small side things are open and can be handled separated. Last part here: be thankful again and let everybody know it!
Step four (optional): Ask for feedback
If you two find a solution, that’s great! If it feels right to ask for a little feedback: go for it! Sometimes you will get the feedback anyway. Sometimes it is good to wait some days or weeks to ask how the things worked out.
Make a difference for the people who come to you! Don’t hurry to give advice to fast, let them stand up and go their way. This way they feel better and more responsible. They will have more self-efficacy and a boost of self-confidence.
Thanks for reading! What things came up when you gave advice? What mistakes did you make? What did you learn? Leave a comment and let the world know!