Giving and getting advice

Have you ever been in a situation where someone felt the need to offer you advice, even though you didn’t ask? I’d almost bet that the person was not privy to all the information needed to give valuable insights.

On the other hand, have you ever been in a situation where you were mentoring someone and they, despite your knowledge, chose to ignore your guidance?

First, let’s talk about unsolicited advice.

Giving advice is the most overused action and much of what we get is unsolicited. Not only is that usually annoying, it’s also almost always unhelpful. Too often, the advice is coming from the wrong source, i.e. someone who doesn’t know the full story or the right solution, and that advice comes whether we like it or not.

People often give advice based just on their own life experience and, even more often, their own opinion. Everyone has opinions, but that doesn’t mean they should be giving advice.

On the other side of the coin, it can be easy when you’re the person hearing someone else’s opinion to take that opinion as advice you should act on. When, in fact, they are being an armchair quarterback who is simply spewing opinions that should be taken with a grain of salt.

The type of people we need sharing their wisdom are those whose influence is both wanted and needed. Unfortunately, most are giving advice when what they should be guidance. Here are my reasons for saying that:

  • Sometimes our advice can do more harm than good
  • People often discount advice, especially unsolicited advice, even when if it might hold some merit
  • When advice is solicited, the person will listen better.

That last point leads me to what I want to say about the other aspect of advice, which is when we should be receiving it well. A wise person will always seek out a good mentor. I’ve had wise mentors in my career and have worked to do the same for others who have come behind me. A mentor doesn’t spew opinions and just hope their mentee follows their ideas. A good mentor uses their wisdom to offer guidance so that the mentee can arrive at the best conclusion.

What I sometimes see, however, is just as detrimental as taking unsolicited opinions disguised as advice. That is when people who are being mentored fail to heed the guidance from their mentor. This leads to the mentor to stop offering guidance or other forms of wisdom.

Leave a Reply