Thursday, December 11, 2014

How To Take Advice

Two heads are better than one and an older head is better than a younger one.

This to say that people who get ahead in the world know how to take advice. You do not get ahead by following your bliss, your instincts or your gut. You do not succeed in this world by thinking of yourself as a fount of all wisdom. You get ahead by collecting advice and then choosing which of it to follow.

But then, how do you distinguish good advice from bad advice. Lolly Daskal offers some good pointers. It might not seem to be the most inspiring piece of corporate wisdom, but it might be the most important.

The most important indication of the value of advice is: the identity of the advice giver.

Can you trust him? What makes you think you can trust him?

Is he offering advice that will benefit him or you?

Is he older, wiser and more experienced? It is generally a bad idea to take advice from your peers. Whether they know it or not, they are your competitors. And besides, what makes you think that they, callow as they are, know better than you.

Is he offering advice that is fitted to your problem, or is he trafficking in generalities?

Is he telling you what you want to hear or is he addressing the issues you raised?

Is he trying to force you to do as he is telling you?

Finally, I would add that you do not have to take someone's advice literally. If a piece of advice helps you to reformulate your problem or reconsider the issues and if this process leads you to a strategy that is better than your first idea and better than the advice you have received, you have used the advice well.

The bottom lines:

First, successful people are very good at taking advice.

Second, knowing which advice to take depends in large part in knowing from whom to take it.

Third, people with more experience and who are significantly older are more likely to offer better advice.

Fourth, you do not have to take someone’s advice as an order that you must follow.

Fifth, choosing the right advice-giver often hinges on a judgment about his character.


Ares Olympus said...

re: Is he offering advice that is fitted to your problem, or is he trafficking in generalities?

Haha, it seems blogs are about trafficking generalities. What else could they be?

When I was in my 20's, after college, I had a period I was reading a lot of fiction, and I observed how easy it was to give advice what the characters should do.

But then I'd find weeks or months later something slightly similar in my own life, and I wondered why that good advice didn't seem so good any more, and I concluded it was about personal risk, I had to put something on the line that had a cost that didn't exist when it was about someone else.

So that helped me listen to advice more objectively, while then could acknowledge an ego/pride cost had to bargain with. And it reminded me when I was giving easy advice too, like to my sister to stand up to her then verbally abusive boyfriend or whatever.

I like to try to find general advice that offers a contrast to other general advice, and then I try to carry both advices unfollowed as long as possible and see what each tells me.

In general I'd say when there are two sides, perhaps most often between feeling and reason, and I'm pretty well convinced both sides contain their own forms of deception, and their own forms of truth, and somewhere between those tensions, a best solution might be found.

On the other hand, if the costs are low, the best learning is to just try something as soon as possible, and compare fears to results, and reassess.

I'd say the best general advice I got from my 20's is don't give up too early in trying something new, that change takes time and is hidden, and so its good to commit to a practice long enough to see progress that you can evaluate.

The other related good advice I remember is the idea of limits of following an authority - like a good parent or coach can help carry early motivation, and you don't have to understand why you're doing what you're doing, just trusting a process exists. But at some point, when the coach will seem like a bully, its your responsibility to decide when to try your own way, and strange power struggles happen that you can't understand until later. So it helps to know that this day will come, and its ultimately good.

Anonymous said...

My experience is that advice is easy to give and hard to follow.