Do you want my advice about advice?
If you are like most people, you don’t want to hear my mouth near as much as you want me to use my ears.
Believe me when I tell you, I get an earful throughout the week of clients complaining about how this or that person in their life gave them advice they did not want. More often than not, they don’t even think the advice was helpful for their situation!
Advice makes people feel all kinds of things. Disappointment, sadness, annoyance, even anger… Usually that’s because what people want is emotional support, not a practical solution.
I have lots of clients who pay me for advice, practical solutions, encouragement, validation, strategies, ideas, and more. But here’s the thing. Most of the time in your relationships, people are not looking for advice!!!
In my personal life, I try not to give advice unless I am asked for it. Especially for my adult daughter and teenage son. Most people, especially our children and spouses, are looking for validation and encouragement – not advice. I cannot stress this enough!!! They want you to use your ears. Then you should activate your mouth, but only to say “What I am hearing you say is ….” and “I can really understand ….”
My own mom is the best at listening. She almost never gives advice, and she almost always just validates and encourages. And I love calling my mom for that reason, especially when I am stressed! Thanks Mom!
In some cases, when I catch myself on the verge of really wanting to give what I think is amazing advice – I then have to bite my tongue, take a deep breath, and say “So, were you wanting me to give you some advice or ideas? Or were you hoping for me to just listen and cheer you up?” About half the time, I hear “No, I just wanted you to listen.”
OKAY. Open ears. Shut mouth.
Even with my clients, I sometimes have to clarify if they want advice or if they want emotional support and understanding at certain points in their therapy process. Most of my clients are generally paying me for advice, but I still use my ears first, then activate my mouth only to reflect back what I heard to make sure they feel understood. Then I validate. Only then, in some cases will I give advice. And this is even when people are paying me for advice.
So, the take away here is this. If you are an advice-giver. Stop!!!
You can improve and repair your relationships just by focusing on changing this one important tenet of your communication. If you don’t, I can guarantee that your behavior is harming your relationships. So… unless someone has asked you for advice, or unless you have asked if the person speaking will give you permission to open your mouth with advice.
Don’t do it…Instead, Open ears. Shut mouth. You can do this!