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Monday, Dec 14, 2009

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Education Plus

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Be clever while offering advice to anyone

When people offer advice on their own, without me asking for it, I tend to get annoyed.

I suppose we all have this complicated attitude towards advice.

Just as an example, as I'm writing this article if someone comes along and casually tells me: ‘ake sure the article is simple and interesting,' I'd get very, very annoyed.

That's not because of the advice itself--of course I want to write in an interesting manner--but because by giving me such advice, this person has suggested that they did not think I knew what I was doing, and they thought that I might not do a good job without the advice.

Complicated affair

I'm sure we've all reacted similarly to advice at some point or the other. Since giving (and tolerating) advice can be such a complicated affair, we happen to have many clever methods of offering advice.

To simply say ‘do this,' is offensive, and puts people off. So even though that is in fact what we want to say, we tend to offer advice disguised as polite suggestions.

For example, instead of direct advice, if I'm told 'maybe your articles would be enjoyable if you made them more interesting,' I'd find it a lot less offensive. But there is still the implied statement that the articles at present are not interesting enough.

This is where we can get really clever when offering advice. Instead of saying ‘you should do this.' or anything even close to that, we only say ‘I would do this.'

Let me explain with an example. Instead of speaking to me directly and telling me to make the articles interesting, my friend could instead say, ‘If I was writing these articles, I'd make use lots of jokes to make them very interesting for everyone.'

Now it is not about me or my work anymore--it simply looks as if my friend is expressing his own views on how these articles should be written. Nothing to do with me, or my writing!

Since we all must offer advice, the effort here is to make it sound as little like advice as we possibly can. So expressing your advice as an independent idea that supposedly has nothing to do with the person you are offering advice really works out.

The “I'd do this” formula is extremely handy for issuing warnings too. For example, if you are at the library and some of your friends suddenly start talking loudly to you, you could warn them by saying “I'd keep quiet if I were you.”

This way of offering advice is slightly less intrusive than simply telling people what to do, but it's still good to remember that offering advice when people haven't asked for it can be annoying regardless of how carefully you offer it.


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