Advice is a funny thing. It’s one of those things that is easier to give than it is to receive.
We all have a little advisor in us who stands guard; ready and willing to help the moment we spot someone who could use a little advice. It’s one of the few things we all seem to have plenty to give. Offering advice makes us feel as if we’re being helpful to the people we care about, and sometimes even strangers.
However, when the tables are turned and someone offers us advice, we tend to get defensive…especially if it’s something we don’t particularly want to hear. Suddenly the person giving the advice becomes an enemy under attack. Almost automatically, we whip out our imaginary machine gun and start shooting holes in the well-intended comments. Sometimes we argue, justify, or even sling an insult at the other person. All too often, we go to extremes and do whatever it takes to make the other person wrong.
Even though we all offer more than our share of advice, when we’re on the receiving end, it’s a different story. Many of us unknowingly, are not open to receiving the same valuable advice that we share so freely.
It’s ironic isn’t it?
Think about it for a minute. What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received? I’ll bet you can come up with an answer pretty quickly.
You might be thinking to yourself, “I came up with an answer, so that must mean that I’m open to receiving advice. This article doesn’t really apply to me.”
Wait just a minute and think again. How long did it take you to realize that (your answer to the advice question), was so valuable? Did you realize it as soon as it was offered, or was it later, over a period of time?
Chances are, it took a while for the advice to sink in. And maybe you even received the same advice several times before you finally accepted it. It’s sort of like how we learn lessons. We get the same lesson presented to us over and over again, until we finally learn it.
How do you treat advice as a gift? Try this the next time some offers you well-intended advice:
Just Listen – no comments, arguments, objections, excuses, or explanations
Receive – accept that the other person is trying to be helpful and that the advice might have some merit
Acknowledge – just say “Thank You”, nothing more
Decide – consider the advice and decide if you’ll use it now or save it for later
So, why should you consider treating advice as a gift? Here are a few of my thoughts, see if you can add your own to the list:
- You can drop the defensiveness and avoid the negative energy that goes with it
- Being more open will help you strengthen your relationships
- People will be more willing to tell you what they’re really thinking
- You just may learn something
Here’s the beauty of treating advice as a gift. Once you accept it and receive it, you can choose to use it now, or put it away for later when it makes more sense to you.
Think of it like opening gifts on a special holiday. You might get pajamas that you can use right now, or you might get a bathing suit that you put away for later.
And who knows, the advice you get could be a lesson in disguise, just waiting to be opened.
Let me know how you do!
This article was inspired by Marshall Goldsmith’s book