Here is a quick way to instantly improve your relationships

I recommend you don’t give advice.

 
This act will save you time. It will increase your happiness.
 
I’ve always been a bit of a know it all and loved giving advice. People seek me out and ask me questions.

I felt like this wise little owl here.

 

These questions took one of two forms:

What should I do about ____?

OR

How can I ____?

I’d share options, strategies, and suggestions for everyone who sought my expertise.
 
In the last six months I have stopped giving all advice for three reasons.
 
Why do I say ‘Don’t give advice?’

First, I don’t give advice because my assumptions were wrong.

 
I assumed people ask for advice when they lack information and that lack is the obstacle.
 
This was miscalculation on my part. Lack of information isn’t the limiting factor.
 
When people ask what should they do, they’re asking you to imagine:
 
  • A course of action
  • An imaginary result
  • A suggestion based on the above daydream
 This is no substitute for experience.
 
Think of a time a friend told you about a fun vacation, a hard workout, or a difficulty they had.
 
Now ask yourself if their experience is a decent replacement for yours. Is it true that you don’t actually need to have the same experience.
 
I say it’s no substitute.
 
If someone had a tasty pizza pie for lunch, or a lovely Cancun vacation, you want to experience them on your own.

Second, I don’t give advice is because the form is low value

The questions takes the form of ” how can I”?
This questions centers around method, which isn’t ideal.
 
Any answer I have provided, or you could provide, is autobiographical.
 
There is no universal answer. It’s predicated on your experience . The difference in skill sets, abilities, interests, and strengths make any solution person specific.
 
Any question like:
 
“What are the ways that someone could do_____”?
is a waste of time
 
Lets assume the person asking for advice is trying to do something that has been done before. Something like:
 
  • Get a job
  • Learn how to ski
  • Learn Spanish
  • Communicate better with their spouse
 All of this has been done before. People who have done it and captured their experience.
 
There’s Google.
 
There’s asking about their experience.
 
Go look at how people have already solved it, and try it out, do it.
 

The last reason I stopped giving advice is because the questions all focus on simulation.

 
Bob Burns the drummer from Lynryd Skynyrd once said:
Anyone asking these questions isn’t taking action. As a result even if you gave someone the perfect prescription for whatever their problem was, it’s highly unlikely they would ever apply it, because it simply wasn’t earned.
 
Someone who is in motion, actively trying to solve their problem while keeping an awareness of their results in combination with sufficient drive, and commitment, will find a way to solve any problem regardless of the advice they receive.
 
They are learning through their own experience, they are leveraging their own evidence, they’re not using anecdote or autobiographical accounts from friends, colleagues, or loved ones, they’re going off of the thing that we all know to be true and most meaningful, which is their own direct experience.
 
If it’s important enough, they will find a way to get the result that they want.
 
And if it’s NOT important enough, they wont.
 
 
On a small side, small example, I have over the years gotten many book recommendations, movie recommendations, and almost universally I ignore them.
 
Hopefully you have learned something from this post.
You will be able to save time and energy by no longer dispensing advice to folks who will never use it.
 
You can improve your relationships without the emotional cost of someone marginalizing your time, your experience, your attention, just for their own curiosity, and you can still be a valuable resource when someone approaches you for your experience with the challenges you’ve encountered, how you have thought about a situation, how you approached resolving the issues that you encountered.
 
That is connecting with a human being and moves you away from being a poor replacement for Google.
Don’t give advice.
Or ignore me. Give advice. Just make sure its a hell yes.
Thanks for reading. If you liked it, share it!

The Author

Sean Oliver

Sean Oliver is a management consultant in Seattle, WA