Advice to the Giver and Receiver

adviceWhat is advice? Is it coaching, mentoring, teaching, support or criticism? How is it best given and how is it best received? Dina Gerdeman’s article called Advice on Advice, references the writings and research of David Garvin and Joshua Margolis which explore the topic in depth.

Many of us believe that the ability to give and receive advice well is simply related to “who we are” and can’t be taught or learned. But in their recent Harvard Business Review article, The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice, Garvin and Margolis share their research that the opposite is true.

On the receiving side, we need to check our egos at the door, be “less hesitant to ask for help” and be sure that we’re not simply seeking validation or praise. Once we recognize that we don’t have all the answers, that our opinions aren’t always correct, that seeking advice is not a sign of weakness, and we are ready to hone our listening skills, we’re prepared to be open to the appropriate advisor.

On the giving side, be sure there’s a relationship of appropriate trust and intimacy. Be sure you’re qualified on the subject, be specific in your suggestions, present options, and be willing to accept that the seeker may wish to modify or opt out of some of your ideas.

From their research into best practices, the Garvin and Margolis identify 5 stages of advising: 1) Finding the right fit, 2) Developing a shared understanding, 3) Crafting alternatives, 4) Converging on a decision, and 5) Putting advice into action.

At the heart of advice, on both the giving and receiving sides, is the ability to listen well. For the giver, it means understanding the seeker’s issue in sufficient depth and detail to know what is really going on. And if you are the seeker, it means keeping a truly open mind and even being prepared to hear what you don’t want to hear.

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