Image by Jonathan Pendleton

The flip side of giving advice

Intuition is a hard thing to fight. Many of the things we do or say are driven by the unconscious part of our brain. They’re often linked to our survival instincts or the innate reaction we have to protect those around us.

It’s really quite fascinating. The more you delve into it, the more you realise just how much is going on in our brains that our conscious minds simply can’t take credit for.

Giving advice falls into this realm.

We believe that in order to help people, telling them what do it is the best thing we can offer. If we see someone facing a challenge, our knee jerk reaction is to tell them how to tackle it.

If I were you..

What you need to do is..

Here’s how I’d go about that..

It’s so intuitive that we rarely put any thought into it. But it’s one of the worst things we can do.

When we tell people how to do something what we are really saying is that they aren’t capable of doing it without us. Our advice tells them we don’t believe they could’ve got there on their own.

No matter how well intentioned the passing on of wisdom may feel, this underlying message is so detrimental.

When we take a step back and look at it like this, it’s easy to see the importance in fighting our urge to pass on advice. It’s restrictive and over time creates a sense of outward reliance. People who are constantly on the receiving end of advice never have any need to call upon their own judgement and resources. As such, they can suffer from a lack of self-confidence and will have little conviction in their opinions.

Instead to meet our human instinct of wanting to help people, but in a way that is positive, the best thing we can do is give them responsibility. It creates ownership, accountability and a personal investment into their challenge or predicament; something that simply doesn’t exist when under the direction of someone else.

People care most about the things they helped create. Whether what they are creating is a solution to a problem or coming up with an idea from scratch, the best results will come from handing over responsibility, not a set of instructions.

Doing this often means retraining ourselves. Which is hard. However, a conscious effort to fight our instincts when it comes to giving people advice is the greatest thing we can do for someone. It helps build individuals up and equip them with the tools they need to be self reliant, independent and confident in their personal judgement.

And when you think about it like that, it’s a much greater gift to give than a piece of advice.