The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

How to stop talking to others with unsolicited advice and learn to advise correctly


Source: with the BBC

Experts say that giving advice is often unwise and ineffective, even when asked to do so. How to behave in such situations - tells with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

Do you often have to listen to advice from your boss or know-it-all colleagues? How do you feel about it? But you probably like it when someone asks for your advice?

Remember the last time you discussed a solution to a problem at work, and someone intervened and offered their own opinion. Did you like it? Did you enjoy the advice from the outside? Probably not.

Most likely, you turned down the offer and thought to yourself: "You don't understand anything at all about what we are discussing here." Or even this: "We don't even know each other."

Toronto-based coaching expert Michael Bungay Stannier believes that many of us are too eager to step in with our suggestions. He found that the habit of advising turned into a craze in the office, which inspired him to write The Advice Trap.

In this book, Bungaei Stannier proves that the tendency to give advice stems from a prevailing belief in society: success means that you have the answers to all questions, and if you are a leader, you must prove your worth by sharing advice right and left, asking you for this or not.

In most cases, we do this with good intentions, seeing our advice as a way to help others. However, every time we rush to advise, we set free, in the words of Bungay Stanyer, our inner "advisor monster."

According to the expert, we need to stop doing this, because, firstly, in a hurry, we can give the wrong advice. Secondly, your relationship with the person you are advising may be such that he simply will not listen to you - it does not matter if you gave good advice or not.

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“You’re almost certainly trying to solve the wrong problem,” stresses Bungay Stannier, “because very rarely the very first problem that is mentioned is real. But even if you managed to figure out which nut to crack, your advice is still not as good as you think. ”

This is because so-called cognitive bias, an evolutionary mental behavior, leads us to believe that our advice is better than it really is (and that we ourselves are smarter than we really are).

People have many cognitive abnormalities, leading to the fact that a person evaluates his skills and abilities too optimistically.

For example, the Dunning-Kruger effect is that people with a low skill level make erroneous conclusions, make bad decisions and, at the same time, are unable to realize their mistakes due to this very level of their qualifications - they are simply “not aware of their ignorance” and willingly offer their opinions on issues that they do not understand.

“It often happens that the more confident you are of the correctness of your advice, the more incorrect it is,” stresses Bungay Stanier. "If you really understand the subject, then your first reaction is likely to be: well, it's not that simple, it depends on a lot of things."

The Canadian scientist believes that the advisor monster lives in each of us, but for some it wakes up faster than others.

The first step to taming and training him is to pay attention to how quickly the monster wakes up. “When people realize how much they are in a hurry with advice, they are extremely surprised,” he says.

Another way to deal with the monster is to think before giving advice how much it will undermine the confidence and independence of the person to whom it is addressed.

Unsolicited advice can be stressful: When someone comes up with a better solution, a better way to accomplish a task, this is often construed as criticism.

When Suzanne (we will not give her last name) worked for an Australian hardware company in Victoria, she had a new colleague whose self-righteous behavior constantly gave her unpleasant moments.

“She had her own opinion about everything,” says Suzanne. - I thought to myself: "You are here only five minutes and already telling people what they should do and what shouldn't?"

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But a new colleague eventually became Suzanne's boss, and that made things even more difficult. “No matter what I said at meetings, she doubted the correctness of my words every time. I began to notice that more and more often I had to discuss with her what I was going to do - instead of just doing, ”she recalls.

“In the end, I was completely exhausted. I could not be responsible for myself and stopped making decisions altogether. I held this position for a long time and loved my job, but the situation became unbearable. "

Suzanne went through a nervous breakdown and spent about six months without work, recovering. As her case shows, the result of an abundance of advice can be disastrous - the opposite of what the person giving it expected.

Suzanne felt like her boss was trying to undermine her self-confidence, but she didn't understand why. She also saw how the new boss's petty tutelage, her desire to control every step of the employees, led to a poor morale throughout the work collective.

How can it be wrong when it looks so right?

And yet it can be very difficult to stop and stop giving advice, because it's so nice! And we feel even better when our advice is asked.

Numerous studies have found that it is almost always the people who give it, not the people who give it, that benefit from advice.

For example, a 2018 study showed that providing advice helped study participants overcome lack of motivation more than receiving advice.

“When someone asks for our advice, it flatters our pride. This satisfies our desire to have status and authority, to be famous. Plus, when you advise, you personally risk nothing, ”stresses Bungay Stanier.

Research by Michael Scherer, associate professor at the University of Management in Singapore, found that the counseling process fuels our sense of power.

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In another study, American students were asked what importance they place on power and whether they seek to become powerful. After that, they were asked to send a letter to a fictional character, a student who can't decide which subject to choose as his main subject.

After that, some of them were informed that the “student” listened to their advice, and some did not. The participants were then asked how influential they felt.

“Those who admit to a stronger desire for power tend to give more advice,” says Scherer. “And how often they give advice correlates with how influential they feel afterwards. As for the students, they only felt more influential when they felt that their advice was being followed. ”

But what surprised him the most: regardless of whether the advice was requested or not, it still intensified the feeling of influence and power.

No one has the answers to all the questions now

These days, however, as technology changes the way we work and the skills we need, leaders can hardly be expected to know all the answers.

“As a leader, you can no longer be an expert in everything. This is simply not possible. It is also a lot of stress to assume that responsibility, it creates problems for those who come to you for an answer, ”says Julia Milner, Professor of Human Resources at EDHEC Business School in Nice, France and Director of the International Leadership Coaching Center. ...

Plus, it can be exhausting, which Shane Pollard has experienced firsthand. He speaks of himself as a “problem solver” in his company. Three years ago, he joined Be Media in Western Australia as the head of the technical department and since then has had to advise his 45 colleagues, and not only on the technical side.

At first, there were only questions directly related to his position. But then common sense questions began: “In the office, someone constantly shouted to me:“ Sean! Who should I include in this email? Should I send a copy to my boss if I write to a client? ”

Colleagues gradually began to consult with him on career development and even financial issues.

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“Advising is a double-edged sword,” says Pollard. - Yes, helping colleagues is nice. But I began to be annoyed by the lack of responsibility of people in solving their own problems. And I wanted to inspire them to make such decisions without relying on me. ”

According to experts, the solution to Pollard's problems is coaching. People need to be taught to develop their own ways to achieve the goal by asking them questions, rather than offering ready-made answers.

It motivates people more than just telling them what to do, Milner said. She agrees that this method is more costly in terms of effort and time - but this is only at first, while others (and yourself) get used to the new leadership style.

“If you ask me a question and I give you the answer, then it is certainly much faster,” she says. “But in the long run, coaching saves time because people stop talking to you about every little thing.”

Her research also found that coaching increases the motivation of teams and leaders, which in turn leads to higher productivity.

Coaching can be fast and practical, Bungay Stanier agrees. In his previous book, The Coaching Habit, he writes that coaching is more about changing the mindset of a leader than additional responsibilities. In fact, he frees up time, because the team becomes more independent, self-sufficient.

However, executives sometimes resist such change, both Milner and Bungay Stannier emphasize.

“We have a certain stereotype of what the leadership should look like. Since coaching involves the transfer of some of the authority to the team members, some bosses are wondering: would I be losing some of my authority? ”Explains Milner.

She emphasizes that not every exchange of information, not every meeting needs to be turned into coaching. “It happens that this is inappropriate - for example, in a tense, emergency situation. A special training will help to learn how and when it is better to conduct coaching of personnel. ”

Bungay Stanyer's final advice is this: if you do decide to give advice, furnish and frame it so that the person has the opportunity to ignore it without losing face.

“You can, for example, say, 'It worked for me, but it may not work for you. If any of these thoughts come in handy, great. If not, well, okay. "

Better yet, don't give any advice.

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