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JewishJournal.com

March 21, 2012

When not to give advice

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/when_not_to_give_advice_20120321/

True story: I was once on a boat with some people.  One of them started to get nauseous and headed for the rail.  On their way there, they were intercepted by a relative, who said “I told you ! You should have taken the Dramamine before we left the dock!”

I’ll never forget the expression of utter disgust—and the shade of green complexion—on my friend as he stared back at his chastiser.  That expression of disdain will forever guide me in my work and my family conversations.

People ask me for advice about how to communicate better.  I make a living giving that advice to them.  So I end up, more than most people I know, thinking a lot about and trying ways to give that advice so that it is helpful to listen to. Not that it’ll be agreed with or acted on, but at least listened to.

One of the best ways to make sure your advice ISN’T heard is to offer it when it’s not solicited, or at the wrong time. Have you ever done that?  It sounds something like:  “What you should have done is….” Or “ I think you should …” The harm in saying things like this happens when the advice is not preceded by any curiosity from the person you’re hitting with that advice.  And, despite your protests of loving and caring intention, please know that it’s having the opposite effect.  It’s making the problem you’re seeking to help with likely worse.

So try this: Go a day without telling your friends and family what to do or what you think about something UNLESS they ask you first. Let me know what that’s like.

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