I get a lot of positive feedback for advice I don’t give.
Recently someone wrestling with an important life decision told me the advice I gave her was the “key” to her making the “right” decision.
Her feedback made me happy, but there was one problem. I never gave her advice.
In lieu of advice
The decision she was wrestling with was complex, with a number of viable options. We talked for about an hour. She laid out the pros and cons of each. I probed her input with questions like: How important is that to you? Is that a plus or a minus? Is there a risk that won’t happen?
The entire hour followed that format. She made statements. I asked questions. She responded.
She knew much more about the issues than I. She is highly intelligent. She had carefully considered the good and the bad.
At the end of our call she thanked me profusely and complimented my “insight” into her situation.
Most people are like her. They are looking for something in lieu of advice. What is it?
What people want
She just wanted to be heard. She wanted someone to listen to her. By “listen,” I mean genuinely, authentically listen, with no agenda. She wanted someone to show an interest in her and her issue.
If she wanted advice, she would have said something like: So which one would you choose? Even then, I probably wouldn’t have answered the question directly. Instead, I would have probed further by asking: Which of the variables we discussed is most important to you?
There are exceptions
Of course, there are exceptions. If a prospect asks you the basis for your investment philosophy, you should respond directly and then ask: Did I answer your question or would you like more details?
Note this is the exception.
Try to avoid giving advice when you aren’t confronted with an unambiguous request for it. This suggestion applies in all contexts. It’s likely your friends, family and especially your children aren’t eager to receive your advice, even when they appear to be interested in your views.
Often, they just want you to listen, and demonstrate your concern for them.
Resource of the week
This article from Thrive Global is one of my favorites. Everyone should read it.