How To Take Advice
We all love to give advice. Taking advice—well, that’s a different story. It can be difficult to hear about areas in our lives that may not be exemplary. So while we intend to listen, we internally and sometimes vocally resist. We interrupt, defend, or protest. We explain our position and clarify our perception. Eventually the other person thinks, “Well, whatever. I’m not saying anything anymore.” And we lose out on potentially meaningful advice.
Here is an effective formula I use to avoid falling into this trap. I heard this advice a few years ago and have practiced it regularly.
Be Quiet and Affirm
As I listen, I have an urgency to explain myself. I feel compelled to be sure the other person knows the “real truth,” so they can give me better advice. Or I want to let them know that “I already knew that.” I mean, that is important for them to know, right?
Wrong. When someone is giving us advice, they may feel a little uneasy in the first place. We can give them a safe place to share by demonstrating we want to hear them and understand them. So, we should simply listen. Otherwise, we may be unintentionally communicating to them that “we already know,” or “we don’t want to hear it,” or “we’ve heard enough,” or “it’s just too painful,” or “I know better.” We communicate that by our body language and our seemingly benign responses. You don’t have to explain yourself. Particularly at this point, just listen.
It’s hard, but with practice you can do it. Be quiet, then affirm. Don’t just sit there and give them the look of death. Have a smile on your face. Be happy that you may hear something that could change your life, even if initially it is difficult to hear.
For example, you could begin by asking someone you work with, “How can I improve my leadership?” Now when they start talking, just like they say on the airplane, “Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.” While you know you are sitting in a cramped seat, strapped down, and about to get bumped around, you try to sit back and relax. It is the same when it comes to taking advice: sit back, relax, and get ready to receive. Say something to affirm them; invite them to tell you more. Your goal is to hear their perspective. And the more you listen, the better.
But what if they are saying something wrong? What if you just don’t agree?
Cast Your Net
If they are saying something that just doesn’t resonate with you, or they are misguided in some way, let it go. If you cast your net wide, you can filter out the little things that may not apply to you and still be in position to catch something of great value. A fish net has holes. Many things go through it, but the big fish will get caught.
When I am weighing advice, I am looking for that nugget that I may be missing, that perspective that has eluded me. I am not fact-checking every word the other person utters for accuracy. As I hear all that is being said, some of it may be inaccurate or hard to hear. It may even be unfair. But, I continue to keep my net open wide by inviting the other person to keep talking. Because once I start speaking, the other person slows down or stops. And I may just miss that big fish. Just like water, whatever is being spoken that I don’t agree with, simply passes through the net.
Say the Magic Words
This is so simple. Say thank you. A lot. I am so thankful that people have given thought about my life, that they are taking the time to talk to me, and that they are willing to be vulnerable enough to speak directly to me. I am thankful that I may hear something I did not know, or something I missed, because there are certainly insights I have overlooked.
By saying thank you, you are not implying that you agree. This is also very important. When someone is giving us advice, they don’t necessarily expect us to agree or do what they are saying. But they do hope we will at least hear their heart and evaluate their words. So when I say thank you, I am not communicating that I agree and that I will do everything they say. When I say thank you, I am communicating, “I hear you. I appreciate what you are saying, and I will definitely consider it.”
Trust me, it works. Surround yourself with substantial people, seek out their wise counsel, and when someone offers you advice, apply this formula:
- Be Quiet and Affirm
- Cast Your Net
- Say the Magic Words
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