26 September 2023

Free advice: How to know when an advisor is a waste of time

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By Kathy Caprino.

I hear from hundreds of people every month from around the world, and many of these folks are generous, positive, and well-meaning individuals.

They often offer fascinating ideas and comments, and aim to be helpful in doing so, but as is true with much in life, there are two sides to every story.

One not-so-appealing aspect of extensive interaction and open communication is that we come into contact with some people who feel very comfortable crossing our boundaries.

They act like an expert when they’re not, offering a slew of unsolicited advice which is more about them than you.

As an example of this, I have a neighbour who I see every few weeks and every time she sees me, she feels the need to offer me all sorts of advice even though she knows virtually nothing about me.

In contemplating exactly why these types of conversations with her (and with others who feel the need to advise without knowing me at all) are so irritating, I got to thinking about how I perceive these experiences.

I also thought about ways we can handle receiving advice that is not welcome — and how to discern clearly when advice is inappropriate, irrelevant, or misguided.

Below are five easy ways to identify without doubt that you shouldn’t be listening to the advice you’re receiving and some suggested responses you can use.

The adviser doesn’t know you at all:

Advice isn’t appropriate for you if there’s no understanding from the advice-giver of who you are, what you care about, and what you value, believe and stand for.

People who want to tell you what to do without having any grasp of what makes you tick are generally just needing to hear themselves talk.

Potential response: Thanks for your tip, but that suggestion doesn’t really fit how I approach my life.

The adviser didn’t ask you if you’d like to hear their advice:

Helpful advice-givers don’t just throw out suggested strategies and tips to help you without asking your permission to do so first.

To me, unsolicited advice is just pontification.

Potential response: Thanks, but I’m not looking for any new advice on this.”

The adviser doesn’t know anything about the topic or issue you’re dealing with:

Another sign of unhelpful advice is when it comes from someone who knows nothing about how to deal with the challenges or issues you’re facing.

An example I just heard is of someone who’s been married for 30 years and hasn’t been on a date in over 35 years, giving advice to a newly single person who’s started engaging in online dating.

Most likely, whatever the advice-giver has to say will be irrelevant and outdated, given how the world works today.

Potential response: Thanks, but that strategy doesn’t really take into account how things have changed.

The adviser doesn’t understand what you truly need and want:

I coach many professional women who’ve told me about former coaching relationships they’ve had that went wrong.

When I ask what happened, they often share that the adviser began advising steps and strategies that seemed to be entirely disconnected to what this client indicated she needed.

I had this experience myself years ago where the first career counsellor I went to indicated that, because my assessment tests showed I had an aptitude in marketing, I should continue to pursue marketing as a profession.

The reality was that I desperately wanted out of that profession, and could never have had the happiness and reward I experience now if I had stayed.

He just wasn’t listening to what I shared about my deepest desires and dreams for my future.

Potential response: Thanks. I’m sure you mean well, but that approach won’t get me closer to what I really want.

The adviser isn’t someone you respect or align with:

The final, most powerful way to tell if the advice you’re getting is something you should consider is this:

Is the adviser approaching his/her life in a way that you respect, admire and want to emulate?

If not, the strategies they suggest probably likely won’t align with who you are at your core, and what you value and stand for.

Potential response: Thanks, I appreciate your insights, but that’s not the way I’d like to handle it.

In the end, when you receive advice you don’t want or didn’t ask for, you can simply walk away, or you can make an empowered stand and say something out loud about it.

Sometimes, it’s not worth our time to try to explain what we’re feeling, but often, it’s an important step on our own brave, empowered path to stand up for what we want.

*Kathy Caprino runs a leadership and career success coaching and consulting firm dedicated to the advancement of women. She can be contacted at kathycaprino.com.

This article first appeared on Kathy’s blogsite

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