Of late I have been noticing the frequency of one subject coming up in both the various groups I am part of through Linkedin, and indeed in my own dealing with people I am working with to gain employment, and that is the subject of asking for and receiving advice. More to the point, it involves people asking for genuine advice and then not actually taking the advice they’ve been given.
There are of course, a few varying points of view from which to approach this subject. For starters, just because someone asks for advice doesn’t mean they are under any obligation to actually take it and follow through on the advice given. This is especially true when the advice would appear to contradict other well-intentioned advice received as in the case of two people giving a client advice on how to make the best resume possible. One says do it this way, and the other says do it another way. In the end, the person has the choice of taking one person’s advice completely, a hybrid of the two, or rejecting both altogether.
Then too there is advice that somehow comes across as more of a lecture really; an imposing of one persons view onto another. How many times for example does the stereotypical teenager get portrayed as sitting down to somebody saying, “Let me give you some good advice. Why when I was your age…” Not likely that kind of approach has much of a chance of sinking in and taking hold because the approach is all wrong.
However, what is vital to understand is that if you seek out someone’s advice, and they provide it to you willingly and with the intent to help, you may not get further advice if you’ve rejected out of hand the advice previously given. Why would someone continue to provide suggestions and helpful advice if past advice and helpful suggestions go apparently untried and ignored? Well surprisingly, there are a great number of people who will continue to provide such advice again and again when asked, even though the person asking has done that very thing and ignore or reject previous advice. So why is this?
Essentially those that are experienced, helpful, and truly wish others to succeed do so because they know that sooner or later, the person asking advice may be in the right place and time to actually be receptive to hearing the message and internalizing it. After all, if everybody took all the advice they were giving the first time, just think of the results: why there would be hardly any drunk drivers, teen pregnancies, people getting fired, students needing to re-evaluate their career decisions and course loads etc. However, pretty much free choice and learning by personal experience would go out the window too. Would you really want your child or a good friend living their life solely based on the advice you’ve given them? What about the advice they’d get from others along the way – would you not want them to be smart enough to weigh the advice they’ve received and make their own decision as to whether or not to take it?
Giving advice is often best done in a very subtle way; getting another person to come to the position you’d like them to be at but arriving there with their own realization, their own discovery but guided and influenced perhaps by our actions, our conversation, our experience.
We all know there are some people who ask for our advice and because it involves hard work and a change in behaviour, it is rejected out of hand as too hard, too impractical, and this may indeed be the case. But sometimes, it’s really a defensive mechanism the other person is using because they lack the skill to follow that advice, and rather than admit that shortcoming, it protects their ego to say, “That’s not the advice I want to hear”, or “That wouldn’t work for me”.
In cases like the above, giving advice isn’t really practical unless the time is invested to demonstrate and teach the necessary skills so the person can then put that advice into action. Someone being told they should target every resume rather than make twenty copies of one and fan it out all over may reject this because without being shown HOW, they just imagine starting from scratch each time they do a resume. If their existing skill base tells them it took them two and a half hours to do a single resume, they probably won’t be receptive to the idea if in their brain it translates as 2.5 hours x 20 = FRUSTRATION!
Timing is key to advice whether you are receiving it or giving it. I’ve known as many have, women who return to abusive relationships numerous times before they make that final and decisive decision to remove themselves completely from the abuser. Don’t you suppose all kinds of people have been giving these women advice to get out and stay out? Sure they have. However, until they themselves were in the right place and time to have that advice sink in and resonate, it was just words.
So don’t be so hard on those who don’t follow your advice; but then again, didn’t I just give you some of my own?