Be careful what you ask for.

We all know unsolicited advice is, well, unsolicited. Its not typically welcome, although maybe in some relationships there’s enough trust that such input might be.

But not usually.

There’s a different story however, when you ask for advice. In that instance its best to be mindful of the old saw: don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer.

You see, when you ask for advice and solicit input its an honor. In a healthy adult dynamic when we are asked for input we respect that honor and respond truthfully with clarity. Now personally, I have been known to be direct with others in my career: when asked a question I’ve been too honest and truthful sometimes for my own good. Although I am capable of tact and know how to use it I opt for this solution primarily in group settings to help save face.

Privately – which is always how advice should be sought and given – I leave tact aside and am as clear and unemotional as I can be to give others the best intelligence I can offer.

Sometimes I’ve noticed people on the receiving end are surprised or taken aback. You see, they didn’t really want advice, they wanted agreement. These are two different things.

Here then some basic guidelines.

  • Ask advice only if you are strong enough to hear things you may not like. We don’t see ourselves as others do and frankly we underestimate our own traits, practice and presence. A good confidante will share the truth with you and it may not be what you thought
  • Don’t ask for advice if what you really want is blanket agreement or approval: you don’t need advice, you need a dog. True mentors whether or not they are your friend will not hesitate to point things out to you. Your dog will love you regardless. Seek advice or a Lab and know the difference
  • Seeking advice requires you to be quiet, or better yet, to practice active listening. This is input not a conversation. You’ll never learn anything new when your own mouth is open. Listen up
  • Finally, recognize that you can take or leave advice. You may get input from a respected mentor or a trusted confidante, but nobody bats 1.000 (no one is right all the time). Every now and then you are capable – and entitled – to consider good advice and dismiss it

Sound advice well-intended is a great gift: don’t waste it by not really considering it.

Feel free to brush aside advice offered unsolicited, but pay heed when you ask something you trust for some input. The career you improve just might be your own.


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