Whether you want to be a leader, coach or entrepreneur — knowing how to give advice will help you. If you give advice incorrectly, then you’ll risk being disrespectful, pissing people off and not helping others to take the positive action that will assist them.
I also try to remember that I don’t have all the wisdom in the world and I don’t know everything.
Some of my advice is useful and some of it is not. Removing your ego from the advice you give makes the quality of your wisdom much higher.
Dry information and stats don’t inspire people to make a change or listen to you. Storytelling is how you make your advice human, relatable and real.
Every great speech or piece of advice comes bundled with a story. The story is what people remember and that’s how they’ll remember your advice.
I don’t know about you, but I never remember facts, figures or statistics. Unless you’re a lifelong, successful, trivia show contestant with a brain for remembering facts and figures, always include stories in any advice you give.
One tip though is to keep your story short and concise. Don’t tell a story that goes for 90 minutes if you can avoid it.
Chunk the story down into what happened, and more importantly, what your audience can learn. Pro’s give advice through telling stories — just look at Ted.com for examples.
A long piece of advice that is complicated will rarely be absorbed or put into practice.
Chunk your advice down into simple steps that your audience can follow. Keep your advice simple wherever possible and focus on key takeaways.
What can someone listening to your advice takeaway with them?
I find the power of threes works best. Aim for three steps or three takeaways if it’s possible in the context of your advice.
Just like a good speech, high-quality advice has a solid structure. There’s an introduction, a body and a conclusion that highlights the takeaways.
This makes your advice easier to follow and more likely to be retained by that very old computer that’s living in our heads called the brain.
Be logical with your advice and structure it in a way that makes sense. Start with your most important point or think about the timeline in relation to your advice. What events happened first or what steps do you begin with?
I get people all the time emailing me and saying things like “Should I be a stripper?” or “Should I kill myself?”
Leading with respect is very important because to do anything else could lead your audience to not take your advice, or even worse, use your advice to harm themselves or put themselves in more pain.
Not everyone is Superman or Superwoman like you, so don’t talk down to your audience. Appreciate their situation even if you haven’t been there yourself and concentrate on being of service.
No one likes to be spoken down to and you have your own issues. You’re not perfect either. Remember that whenever you’re giving advice.
Even if your audience disagrees with your advice, they’ll respect you if you respect them first.
If your audience is millennials, then you’ll want to get to the point. Our attention span is only decreasing as time goes on and so those who can get to the point will win in this new attention economy.
Your advice may be amazing, but it will never be heard if you can’t get to the point.
Respecting your audiences time is how you get them to listen to your advice. Even try telling them up front how long the advice will take to deliver.
You don’t need to tell your life story when giving advice. Focus on the advice that will lead people to take action or think differently. Adopt the mindset of “All killer no filler.”
Advice that is simultaneously inspiring works. I’ve witnessed this over the last few years with my own audience.
People just want to be inspired. Being inspired is how you get people’s attention. Inspiration makes us feel good and positivity always wins.
Inspiration that doesn’t inspire action though is useless. A one-off pump up session of advice doesn’t help anyone in the long-term.
Focus on how you can inspire and also get people to think and follow through with action.
We’ve talked about storytelling already. Many people tell stories but never include their own experience.
Your experience is the best advice you can give. No one has exactly the same story or list of experiences as you, so that’s what makes your advice truly unique.
If you’re planning on making a business around your advice, this is an important fact to realize early on.
All of us have experiences worth sharing. Many of my coaching clients tell me they don’t. When I test that theory, I find out every time that we all have personal experiences that can help others.
Your personal experiences are more valuable than you think.
Lots of people give advice without knowing their audience’s problem. The best advice is tied back to the listener’s problem.
If you want to be effective with your advice you need to learn to tailor it to the audience. This sounds easier than it looks.
The best way I discovered to understand my audience’s problems was to ask them (in the case of 1–1 advice) or for large audiences, to research my audience’s problems through websites like Quora.
I’ve found that our problems all come from mostly the same list. Our problems are not as unique as we think — they are in our own head.
If all you do is give advice that doesn’t solve the real problem, you’re wasting your time. I even try to reference my audience’s problem in every part of the advice I give.
Become obsessed with the problem and your advice will be effective.
The best advice contains your own emotion. Linking your advice to emotion is another practical strategy to get people to take action.
Injecting emotion into your advice requires you to be bold, authentic and vulnerable which is why so many people forget this valuable step when giving advice.
We all remember when someone got emotional while giving a speech or when we felt the same emotion as the person giving us the advice.
“We’re all human and emotion unites us”
Emotion is what can make your advice feel universal. We’ve all felt sadness, laughter or emotion in our lives. Put this into your advice if you want to influence your audience to make a real and rapid change.
When you care about someone and think you know how to improve their situation, it’s tempting to play amateur psychiatrist—especially if you’ve been there before. If you’ve ever been on the couch-end of this scenario, you know it can be frustrating.
If you feel the need to offer unsolicited advice, ask them, “Do you want some ideas to improve the situation?” This way they have the option to say no, and they’ll likely give you more attention when they’ve agreed to take your help.
Oftentimes when people ask for advice, what they really want is to rehash something they can’t get off their mind—something they’ve probably talked about repeatedly to lots of different people (maybe even anyone who’d listen).
The best way to be a friend is to enable both what they want to do and what they need to do. Want: tell the story repeatedly, as if they can change how they feel if they just talk about it enough. Need: work through it and let it go. Tell them you’re there to listen to everything they need to say. Once they’ve gotten all out, you’d love to help them move on.
If you don’t know how someone feels, you can’t truthfully say, “I know how you feel.” That’s okay. You can likely still empathize on some level. Let them know, gently, that you haven’t been there before, but you’ll try to put yourself in their shoes to help as best you can.
Also, don’t be afraid to let them know you don’t have anything to say. You can still be an ear, take some time to think about it, and then share your thoughts later.
When someone comes to you for help, odds are they already feel pretty vulnerable. They’re trusting you to hear them out without being judgmental or condescending.
Rather than beginning your advice with, “You should have,” or “Why didn’t you…?” realize what’s done is done, and focus on what they can do or change right now. Try something like, “It might help to consider….” Then, offer your support along the path.
It can feel gratifying to figure out what seems like the answer and then deliver it in a sermon. It’s like being a good advice detective when you figure out exactly what someone should or can do, and you feel even better when you can put it all into words eloquently.
But this can also come off as superiority, which probably isn’t your intention. Try, “I don’t have all the answers, but I’d love to help you figure out what’s right for you.” Whenever you’ve talked for a few minutes, bring it back to them. “What are your thoughts about that?”
Your sister doesn’t want just a list of ways to break up with her boyfriend; she wants help finding the courage to do it and get through it. Your friend doesn’t just want tips to switch careers; she wants support in making a scary but positive change.
It doesn’t matter so much that you have all the answers. More often that not, people know what’s right for them; they just want to feel validated and supported.
Even if you’ve been there before, you can’t guarantee any specific outcome. Your friend could approach her boss exactly like you did for a raise and end up being demoted—at which point she might blame you.
Keep expectations realistic by focusing on possibilities within the realm of uncertainty. If you tell your sister to take a risk, make sure she knows it is a risk. Help her weigh the possible outcomes, both positive and negative so she can decide if it’s worth the potential reward.
When you make the proactive decision to find answers for yourself, you feel both empowered and confident in your ability to make the right decision. You can help your friend feel that way by pointing him in the direction of a few books that will help him help himself.
He’ll feel much better himself after gaining a new insight through reading than he will after sitting through a lecture. Start by saying, “I came across something that might help put things in perspective…”
Another option is to be there with kindness instead of words. This is a good approach if you’ve already offered advice on the problem, and realize not much you say will help.
Leave a hand-written “thinking of you” card in that person’s mailbox or mail them a package with some sweet treats and light reads. Sometimes people just need to remember their problem isn’t the end of the world and there are lots of other good things in their life.
You’re not the go-to guru for all answers—and you don’t have to be—but you have the power to make other things happen.
Plan a fun weekend getaway or day trip (for the budget-conscious) with your friend. Set the date in stone and make an unforgettable memory. People often find answers for themselves when they get away, let themselves relax, and clear their head for a while.