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How to give advice: 7 questions for advice-givers

I overheard this conversation recently at a dog agility trial:

Woman 1: My dog has stopped liking jumps. So I’ve started rewarding again after every jump when we’re training.

Woman 2: You should try tossing a ball to the dog after he goes over the jump.

Woman 1: Well, my dog’s not really one who likes toys much.

Woman 2: I bet he’d learn to like toys if you played more with them.

Woman 1: No, that hasn’t worked, we tried that. Besides, rewarding after a jump is working so far.

Woman 2: Try making toys the reward instead of food. Then he might learn to like them more.

Woman 1: I don’t care if he doesn’t play with toys. It. Doesn’t. Matter. Been there, done that. Let it go.

Woman 2: Well, I was only trying to help.

My heart went out to both women. Poor Woman 1 made a casual observation then spent the remainder of the conversation deflecting advice she had neither sought nor was interested in. Woman 2 thought she was doing something helpful and found herself pushed away.

How to give advice: 7 questions for advice-givers
When I work with clients who want to successfully influence someone else and are using advice-giving as their primary tool for achieving those results, I like to ask, “Which do you really want: To give advice or to help? Don’t assume they’re one and the same.”

Next time you want to give advice that matters, pause and answer these questions for yourself first:

  • Are you sure your motivation is really to help…or could it be something else, too?
  • Are you sure the receiver wants or needs you to solve their problem?
  • Is advice-giving really helpful right now or is it your problem-solving crutch?
  • What could happen if you stopped knowing the answer and started being a discoverer instead?
  • Are you sure you truly understand the problem you’re jumping in to solve it?
  • Is it time to expand your problem-solving toolbox beyond advice-giving?
  • Are you sure your presence alone isn’t the best gift you could give?

Tammy Lenski

Dr. Tammy Lenski helps individuals, pairs, teams, and audiences navigate disagreement better, address friction, and build alignment. Her current work centers on creating the conditions for robust collaboration and sound decisions while fostering resilient personal and professional relationships. Her conflict resolution podcast and blog, Disagree Better, are available at… MORE >

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