Last month I discussed how to gather good input and advice from others. This month I discuss giving good advice. When you offer unsolicited advice, how do you give it?
You have been around those who have given you input on a decision or during your research phase. Some are on track and others are off base. Some give you very little and some give you too much. When people ask your opinion, how is the response given? Do you give a little or a lot?
You have also received unsolicited advice from those who hear your story or plan and just jump right in. They seem to want to share—even if you are not asking. They want to impact your process even when it may not apply directly.
Now think about how you have given advice when asked and when you are not asked. Is it well received? Let’s take a look at how you may be giving advice and how it may be received by others.
When others ask for your perspective
Don’t give advice too soon. Some start offering advice before the person is done framing the question. They just jump in and start spouting off their solution to a problem that the person may not even have. Wait until the person is done talking and even give them a little longer to pause and ponder.
Ask them to clarify what they are actually seeking. Even when they have finished talking you should ask them to restate their situation or problem. You might find that by having them restate the issue they clarify some issues and reduce it down to the targeted area they really want to discuss.
Don’t talk too long. So many times I have asked for advice and the person I asked unleashed a torrent of advice on all levels and all topics (even those I did not ask about). They took very few breaths or pauses where I thought I might jump in. I felt like I had to raise my hand to talk. They just kept going and going. I suggest that you offer advice in small snippets. Bite size chucks that are digestible by others.
Ask a lot of questions. You should ask a lot of clarifying questions prior to offering advice. Ask about hardware and software, culture, processes. Get a good feel for their environment prior to giving them suggestions. This will help you get a clear picture and get information beyond what they have provided.
Provide a disclaimer. Ready to answer? Put an disclaimer in your comments up front. Just say “This may not be true for you, but I have done this… “ or maybe “Your setup differs from mine quite a bit and this may not even help, but here is what I would try.” By making this up-front statement, you convey that they are the bottom line on using the suggestions “as is” or modify them through their understanding before slamming ahead.
Look for reactions. As you provide the advice, keep a lookout for their reactions. Do they tilt their heads and strain to listen? This is a good sign. Do they roll their eyes at your words? This is not good. The reactions will not be as dramatic as this most times, but if you remain sensitive you will catch signs of acceptance or rejection of your ideas. If they are accepting, you can continue to offer more. If they appear to be rejecting, then you may want to stop talking or ask more questions such as, “Am I even close to understanding your issues?”
Don’t be pushy. No one people who think they are an expert in all areas. Your opinions and perspectives and advice may be rejected if you are too pushy in providing it. Never tell people that you have the answer and if they don’t do what you have told them, they are fools. Just provide possible solutions and encourage them to try it. Make no demands in word, inflection, or body language.
When others do not ask for your input
Sometimes you are just dying to provide input and advice when others are not asking. It may be a complaint session that you realize you have a solution for, but no one is asking. It may be a subtle negative comment that lands right in your area of expertise. You have a suggestion and you are just aching to provide it.
Pause and think. Don’t just blurt it out. First, see if anyone cares. Just state “I may have a solution for that” and see if anyone grabs onto that thread. If someone asks, then you have permission to provide your perspective. If no one asks or seems to care about what you have to offer, then you may decide not to share what you are thinking. It may fall on deaf ears.
Provide it as questions. You may alternatively want to frame your solution as a question. Frame it as “Have you thought about trying this…?" Allowing it to be posed as a question will achieve the same thing as stating that you may have a solution, but it now includes a snippet of the solution. I tend to fall into this area most often. I put forward my perspectives as questions. It tends to defuse rejection and increase the possibility of being heard. Other may still write you off, but at least the possible solution has been suggested.
Keep it short. When providing advice that has not been sought out, keep the responses very brief. Even briefer than when they actually ask you for advice. Make a quick interjection and then wait for results. If they seem interested, then expound on it. Again, you are waiting for them to ask for more. If they do, then an in-depth discussion may follow.
When giving advice always remember that the other person may take it wrong. They may think that you are acting superior or being a know it all. Keeping a humble attitude and providing advice when it is accepted will go a long way toward assisting others.