Your Mom calls to give you her opinion about that dress you wore at last Sunday’s picnic.
Your friend suggests you take up samba lessons to meet new people.
Your partner hints that he liked your hair with blonde highlights better.
Your boss advises you to take a course to improve your presentation skills.
We get advice every day, from all sorts of different people and for all kinds of things and situations.
We usually categorize it into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ advice.
Good advice is when someone makes a suggestion and you think ‘oh yeah, of course!’. This might be advice about how to start with that presentation, or where to look online for your next holidays destination. This kind of advice is easy to take.
Bad advice is when someone makes a suggestion and you have a clear sense that you don’t agree with it. You might not respect the opinions of the adviser or think they have a hidden agenda.
Sometimes however, advice is trickier.
When I was planning my first retreat, I had a plan. I had put together a 4 steps coaching program that I wanted to coach women about during the retreat weekend.
My coach, someone I admire a great deal and who cares about me and my success, asked me whether the idea retreating was still achieved with such an extensive program. She suggested I start with one or two steps during the weekend and follow that up later with the next steps.
By this time, I had already prepared a lot of material, made plans on how I was going to do what. So I did not like her advice as it would mean changing around things, re-planning and re-doing what I had already done.
The more time passed, the more uncomfortable I became with the timing of the weekend.
So I sat down and reflected about her advice, took a hard look at my program and eventually had to admit that I was loading too much on the plate of that weekend.
“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” ~Erica Jong
Like Erica Jong, I often find myself asking for advice when I already know the answer to my own question, but I don’t like it. I also feel the most resistant to the advice that is telling me what I already know, but don’t want to.
So here’s my advice for that tricky third category, the kind of advice for which we can’t decide whether it is good or bad.
- Trust your gut.
We always know. Even if we don’t know, we know! Deep down there is this thing called your intuition, your gut, that knows whether this advice you’re getting feels uncomfortable because it’s plain wrong, or because it is actually right.
- Scan the giver.
Check who is giving the advice.
Do they have your best interest at heart? Do you trust them? Are they possibly biased? Has their advice been helpful in the past? Do they understand you and your situation? Are their values similar to yours? Maybe too similar?
- Listen to advice from past mistakes.
People who have made their share of mistakes often give great advice. They may have overcome the obstacles you are challenged with now.
- Take time.
Sleep on it. Literally. Let some time pass. Let the advice sink in. No need to rush into any decisions. The important stuff can always wait. Time changes your perspective.
- Get a second opinion.
And a third or fourth. Ask maybe some people who are different from you (younger/older, more experienced, from a totally different field, male/female). You can even ask a 5 year old and get some very valuable information.
- Advice is just advice.
Advice is there to help you make a decision. Not tell you what the decision should be. So it’s just another opinion or piece of information that you can use to make up your mind.
Sometimes you want to do one thing and everyone is advising you to do something different. In that case it’s helpful to remember that you have more information about what is right for you than anyone else does!
And even if you don’t know for sure which is the right thing to do, sometimes it’s more important to try something and learn through our mistakes than it is to play it safe.
We all make mistakes all the time, regardless of how much advice we listen to! This is how we learn and grow. And trust me, some mistakes can turn into something great!