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Phone a Friend

Life is full of complexity, and making decisions can be incredibly tough. To spice it up there are emotional attachments, the stress factor, expectations of others and our general indecision and dithering. We can easily get stuck. Thankfully, we always have the option of “phoning a friend” and getting some good advice. Receiving good advice is a treat, and offering it to others is an art. It’s something we all do, and it’s something that we can all improve on. A few wise words can go a long way. Here are some reflections on refining your advice:

Before you give any advice:

  • Hear them out – sometimes people just need to be heard. Maybe they’re not expecting you to have all the answers. Maybe they just want someone to lend an ear.
  • Ask good questions – try to understand their predicament by asking questions. This gives you a clearer picture, and can help the other person see the same.
  • Reflection – what experience and wisdom can you draw upon which is relevant to this situation? Be aware of any biases and self-interest you may have, and try to be as selfless and impartial as possible.

While formulating your advice:

  • Philosophical & Practical – strike a balance between philosophical advice (that will address the deeper issues) and practical advice (that can offer immediate relief and progression). Both are important.
  • Achievable & Challenging – offer advice that people can actually follow through (this gives them hope and creates faith in you). But also challenge them to grow – don’t just give easy advice that makes you popular and doesn’t disturb them.
  • Inspirational not Intimidating – generate inspiration by sharing the benefits of following the advice. Avoid using fear tactics that force people or snooker them. 
  • Time Sensitive – always consider whether it’s the right time to offer advice. Are they in the right frame of mind to hear it? Do you need to give some intermediate steps first? Maybe things will be rectified automatically in due course of time?
  • Empathise – try to put yourself in their shoes. Avoid giving advice that you yourself wouldn’t follow. This is a good test of the strength and feasibility of your advice.
  • Another Opinion – don’t be afraid to admit that you may need another opinion. Refer them to someone else.

When you give the advice:

  • Good delivery – demonstrate that you have understood their situation and considered the different angles. Offer the advice and explain the reasoning.
  • Get feedback – ask how it sounds. Often the best advice is created in an iterative way. Their reactions can help you refine it together and make it even more meaningful.
  • Detachment – accept that the person may not take your advice. They are not obligated. Learn to live with it, and let the person live with his or her decision.
  • Do the follow-up – keep in touch with them and see how things go. Offer ongoing support.

Maybe you can recall the last piece of advice you gave to someone. Did it follow some of these principles?

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