How to Master the Art of Approaching Others for Advice

How to Master the Art of Approaching Others for Advice

A guide to meaningful interactions

By seeking advice from the right folks and doing so in the most effective manner possible, you can develop wiser solutions to your dilemmas, enhance your critical thinking skills, and refine your ability to make sound decisions.

Seeking advice is an essential skill that can empower individuals to make informed decisions, broaden their perspectives, and accelerate personal growth. However, asking for advice requires finesse and a strategic approach to ensure a valuable exchange of wisdom between both parties involved.

In this article, we will explore the best practices for asking for advice, making it worthwhile for both the seeker and the advisor, preparing for such conversations, and effectively utilizing the advice received.

According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, “The right advice can be life-changing. It can help entrepreneurs create thriving businesses, help professionals navigate difficult career decisions, and help individuals make informed life choices” (HBR, 2018).

Do not seek advice from someone that you feel will validate or reinforce your decision to stay just as you are and avoid any change or action forward.

For example, Jimmy is a safe, conservative, career-minded individual. No judgment to Jimmy; it’s just a fact. Don’t go to Jimmy for advice on starting a new business, followed by quitting your job. Jimmy will freak out and project his insecurities and fears by saying: “starting a business is not for everyone. You can fail and lose money. I wouldn’t jeopardize your cushy, high-paying job even if you hate it and want to try something new.” This happens all the time. This is NOT advice. This is a fear-based opinion that has nothing to do with you. But if you listen to it, it may destroy your dreams.

Or take Elizabeth, for example. A university professor that taught the same two courses for almost 30 years and it’s ready to retire. She had consulting and publishing opportunities, but felt like she had nothing to offer others outside of her teaching role. You ask Elizabeth to meet you for coffee to share your excitement about writing a book: “OMG, a book!? That’s intense and lots of work. You are too young to write a book. You barely finished your bachelor’s degree with less than a 3.0 GPA. What could you possibly say that has not been said before? Who is going to read you? Writers make no money.”

Most often than not, Jimmy and Elizabeth are your parents, siblings, spouses, or best friends. They are the people you care the most for. And they are the people most likely to kill your ideas and dreams. Watch out who you approach for advice. 

I suggest approaching someone that has walked the path you are trying to walk. Ask them about their process and experience. You will likely hear the ups and downs of their process. Ask about what worked, what they would do differently, and what advice they have for someone who wants to go in that direction.

Choose the Right Advisor:

When seeking advice, it is crucial to identify individuals who possess the relevant knowledge and experience in the area you need guidance. Look for people who have achieved success or expertise in the field, or have faced similar challenges. Consider seeking advice from mentors, industry professionals, trusted colleagues, or even experts in the respective domain.

Don’t be afraid to ask anyone you admire and respect via their website, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media accounts. I have done this in the past and have been surprised to receive responses. You will come across kind individuals who will love to help. Keep in mind some of us are either consultants, coaches, or trainers, and this is part of the work we do. Nonetheless, I always respond, even if it’s short and to the point. 

Establish Rapport and Respect:

Before requesting advice, it is essential to build a positive rapport with the person you intend to approach. Show genuine interest in their work, accomplishments, or ideas. By demonstrating respect for their expertise and experiences, you create a foundation of trust and make it more likely that they will be willing to help you.

Be Clear and Specific:

When asking for advice, be clear and specific about the issue or challenge you are facing. Providing relevant context and details will allow the advisor to understand the situation fully and provide targeted guidance. Vague or general questions may lead to generic responses, limiting the value of the advice received.

Listen Actively:

Once you have posed your question, listen attentively to the advisor’s response. Avoid interrupting or becoming defensive. Show appreciation for their insights and take the time to reflect on what they are saying. By actively listening, you convey respect and reinforce the importance of their guidance.

Ask Follow-up Questions:

To delve deeper into the advice given, ask thoughtful follow-up questions. This not only demonstrates your genuine interest, but also allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the advice. Clarifying any uncertainties or seeking further elaboration can significantly enhance the quality of the guidance provided. 

Reflect and Evaluate:

After receiving advice, take the time to reflect on the insights shared. Consider how the advice aligns with your values, goals, and circumstances. Evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks of implementing the advice, weighing them against your unique situation. This reflection process will help you make informed decisions on the advice received.

I have accomplished more in my life by asking for advice. I’ve approached leaders from all walks of life for wisdom, tips, and counsel in all matters: spiritual, business, conflict resolution, academic, legal, relationships, vocational/career, and art-making. I owe much of my success to all of these mentors, coaches, psychologists, business gurus, and spiritual leaders. Likewise, I am forever grateful for their kindness in listening and pouring wisdom into my life. 

Just like I’ve received, I also give. Giving advice is part of my life calling and the work I do. I don’t take it lightly. I am honored and privileged each time I get a request for advice. When I’ve taken CEO or managing roles, my office door would always remain open. I strongly encourage open communication that does not have to limit to work-related matters. Any personal matter is equally important to me, as we are not robots that detach personal troubles from work.  

Many of the people I have advised over the years still keep in contact and, once in a while, share an update on their life with me. It makes me happy and proud. I love seeing people take bold steps and succeed. But not all of them say thanks; some are too proud or ungrateful. Expressing gratitude for the time and wisdom shared is the biggest token of appreciation. If you are given advice, thank them for their time and for sharing their wisdom or experience. If the advice influenced your decision-making process and subsequent actions, do not forget to write a note and let them know. Share the outcomes or progress resulting from the advice given. This feedback not only strengthens your relationship with the advisor and keeps the door open, but it also highlights the value of their guidance. 

A research article published in the Journal of Applied Psychology states that “Individuals who show gratitude and offer value in return for the advice received are more likely to receive positive outcomes from the advice-seeking interaction” (Gino & Brooks, 2014).

Asking for advice is an invaluable tool for personal and professional growth. By following these best practices, you can ensure meaningful interactions with advisors and maximize the benefits of the advice received.

Remember, effective communication, active listening, and thoughtful reflection are key elements to making the most of these valuable exchanges. Always be grateful to the advisors for their time and generosity. Receive the advice, ponder honestly, and take what works better or fits best for you.

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