Giving Good Advice

Our world our landscape is changing. We are seeing things change rapidly, consistently, constantly.

Some may fear for our community, for our lifestyle.

That the principles that we hold dear and sacred will be watered down, diluted, become mainstream.

Some of these concerns are valid ones – We are not here to minimize them or to wish them away.

But rather we are here to help – to give a perspective on what each of us can do to make sure that what we have helped to build continues to grow and that the relationships we have and the communities and groups that we are a part of get stronger as we continue.

There is one area in which you, the Renaissance Master can make a difference regardless of what educational background you have, your political leanings or religious affiliations – You have an opportunity to make a difference nearly everyday, whether you realize it or not. Im encouraging you to commit to giving GOOD advice, either in person or on any of the online forums you frequent.

It is my observation that we arent generally taught how to give GOOD advice. And it is because we arent taught how to give advice that most of the opportunities that we see are missed. Good advice given and received well is priceless, but there are many ways in which good advice is given in a very poor manner and it ends up being not received despite the good intentions of the giver.

In online forums, offline discussions, lifestyle meetings, email groups, fetlife discussions and other places there are multiple examples of where good advice could have been given but the opportunity was missed.

The mistake that I’ve observed the most is failing to answer the question – for example; a person poses a particular question on an issue that is troubling them. Perhaps its something personal or something that happened or is happening in their relationship. Something that is either hurting them or causing some confusion in their lives.

Many responses are miles and miles away from answering the question.  Much of what passes for advice given today is similar to giving someone that is wounded three well placed shots to the head instead of the assistance or help they are looking for.

The three shots to the dome typically take the following form; what they did wrong, what they should do, and what you/would do or wouldnt do if you were them.

Why dont these work to help the person with the problem??? – lets take a look;

What they did wrong – they KNOW already what they might have done that was “wrong” – that’s why you are having the conversation in the first place!!! In football, there’s a reason why they call a penalty when a bunch of guys not involved in the tackle just run up and jump on top of the pile.  Its called PILING ON – and its not fun. Nobody likes to be kicked when they are down. They know that something is wrong already. Seriously.

What they should do. – this seems like the right thing to say, and honestly it can be at times. But TIMING is everything. If done too early it can seem unfair, hostile or blissfully ignorant of important facts relating to the situation. the reality is that You have to have permission to teach anyone anything. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink it. (unless the horse is a slave of course, then you can, but that’s a different discussion)

The truth is that you cannot make someone take your advice. You have to earn the right to be heard, and that typically isnt through talking  – its through active listening.

Why do people vent?  Because venting feels good – you get things off your chest, you unburden yourself. Venting is part of the problem solving process for many people – sometimes you have to listen to your own voice in order to start forming solutions as to what you need to do next. As the listener you may have some observations or something that you want to say.  If the person venting does not say “so what do you think?”  You can ask – Do you want to know what I think? If they say yes – then proceed. If not, listen, commiserate…say “that sucks” or whatever and move on.

What you would do or wouldnt do if you were them – what you would have done if you were in their shoes. What you would never “take” if you were them. The list goes on and on and basically what the mythical YOU would have done or not done is as fictional and irrelevant as a flying monkey making pancakes. What you’re basically saying to the person is; IM cooler than you, IM smarter than you, I would never make the same mistakes as you. YOU dont make good choices. YOU are pitiful. YOU should have done something different. This is not only rude, but also can be perceived as condescending as well.

So…what can the RM do differently that will allow the space to gain enough emotional capital with someone needing advice to actually make a difference in their lives? What about when the question is already on the table, like in an internet forum – they have already described the situation and asked or implied “what do you think?” What then?

The answer really isnt that complicated – If you really want to influence people, If you really want to make difference, if you truly want to change things; Instead of the Three shots to the Dome, we are going to give you the Three graces of good advice.

FIRST –  ANSWER THE QUESTION (if you know the answer).  If the person asked a question answer the question. This seems very simple and to the point.  If you dont know the answer – say you dont know!!! Its totally okay for the RM to not have all the answers. We arent here to know all the answers. We are here to maximize our enjoyment of this life from many different angles and vantage points.  If you dont know the answer, you are still helping somewhat by listenting – “I hear you….but I have no idea what the answer might be” is entirely appropriate as a  response.

 ASK QUESTIONS – Resist the temptation to PILE ON just because everyone else is doing it.  You can still ask questions – in fact, asking questions is the single most effective way of engaging a person because fundamentally it shows that you give a damn.  You care. People who care are perceived as someone that is worth listening to.  If you’re online, as many of us are from time to time, dont worry about the “speed of the scroll”  or how many other people have commented – if you really care, your post will stand out, no matter how many other people “weigh in” on the subject at hand. Why? Because I’ll guarantee you most of those posts will be of the Three Shots to the Dome variety= What they did wrong, What they should do, and What the writer would/would not have done if they were in a similar situation. So what.
Again; People who care are perceived as someone that is worth listening to.

if you want to avoid sounding patronizing or holier-than-thou, the most effective way to achieve this is to ask questions because:

  • the questioning process helps a person consider alternate views of the issue they are struggling with that they might not have thought about previously.
  • questions give an implied ‘permission’ to the person to find answers for themselves and puts their decisions and their outcomes under their control;
  • questions keep you from guessing or putting forth an answer that might be wrong.

2.  SHARE YOUR STORY – All of us are an expert on one thing – and that is OUR STORY.
RM, YOU WERE THERE. YOU’VE LIVED IT. You can see it like it was yesterday. You got the scars to prove it.  You’ve lived with yourself for however long since you became enlightened that you are separate from everyone else on the planet. Your thoughts, your experiences, your ups and downs, your highs and your lows. These experiences are priceless and can be of benefit to another person seeking answers. THIS is different from talking about what you wouldnt do if you were them. This is talking precisely to what you DID do when you were in the same situation. This isnt a fantasy of what you would have done or not done – this is talking about your actual experience (if you have an actual experience to draw on) This is authenticity – this is being real and people who are real are perceived as someone worth listening to.  Note; sharing your personal story can also put you in a place of vulnerability as well. I dont advocate putting yourself out there in front of every muffin with a question or issue. Yes I believe that you, gentle RM have a lot of wisdom to offer, but again be careful who you share that with. Make sure that you’re sure the person is ready to understand and gain knowledge from the life lessons you acquired during your stay in a third world prison camp, without getting hung up on the reason you were put in there in the first place.

Ok RM – You’ve asked questions, you’ve shared your story – finally, do you have resources that you can offer that will help? Directions in which you can point the person beyond “go to hell”? Perhaps you know someone that is better qualified than you to comment on the subject raised and you can offer to put the person asking the question in touch with them. Perhaps you have articles or documents etc in your collection or url’s where important information can be found that you can share. Offer to followup with them – encourage them to email you offlist. Establish a framework under which you can influence that person beyond the initial interaction if you are led to do so.

The point is RM – the best way we can make an impact on this M/s world is in the area of thought leadership People want to know what you know – but you have to be Real.

People who care are perceived as someone that is worth listening to.  
People who are real are perceived as someone worth listening to.  
People that give something of themselves without cost are perceived as someone worth listening to.

Give good advice RM.