Giving good advice is a great gift. Yet, we sometimes run into trouble because of the way we offer it. The ability to give advice in a positive, constructive way is an art. Here are three points to help us offer advice with effectiveness and compassion.
1. Listen first. While this rule is true for all good communication, it is doubly true when we wish to give advice. Issues are often more complex than they initially appear. By first listening, we open a space for the speaker to more fully describe the situation and for us to more fully understand it. What is the point of offering advice based on partial information?
In addition, when we listen first, it makes it more likely that the other will then listen to what we have to say. In the words of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, one needs “connection before correction.” It is empathic listening that establishes the connection.
2. Ask permission. Unsolicited advice is a major cause of grief among friends and family members. It can be experienced as unwelcome intrusion into personal business. It might also be seen disrespectful, as implying that a person is incapable of caring for himself and resolving his own issues.
Asking if our advice is desired shows respect for others and prevents resentments. Here is one way to do this: “As I listen to you, there are some ideas coming up for me that you might find useful. Would you like to hear them?” It is very important to ask that question without attachment, from a place that both “yes” and “no” are equally acceptable responses.
3. Offer without insisting. It is worth keeping in mind that even after we have listened, we can never know with certainty what is best for another person. There is so much that we are not aware of. So we offer our insights, experiences and ideas, with the attitude that our advice is another point of view, and we trust the listener’s inner wisdom to discern what is right for him or her.
One of my teachers, Selwa Said, likens giving advice to a waiter in a fine restaurant who holds out a dessert tray and says to the patron, “here, if you wish,” and the diner takes what is right for him. This has a practical advantage, as well. By not insisting, we increase the chances of our words being considered.
Uzi Weingarten has taught both spirituality and the art of human communication for many years. He is an ordained rabbi with a Masters degree in the field of Education, and is presently pursuing a Masters degree program in Spiritual Psychology. Uzi teaches "Communicating with Compassion" to small groups both in person and by phone conference. In addition, Uzi is available for individual counseling.
This week, Uzi is offering a free phone introduction to Communicating with Compassion on Tuesday, April 29, at 5:30pm Pacific (8:30pm Eastern). The next course begins on Tuesday, May 6. For more information, visit: www.uziteaches.com, or contact Uzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org.