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?