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How to Ask for Advice

When most people ask for advice, they tend to tell someone their situation and they ask what to do. This is not the best way to ask for advice.

Jay Shetty explains on this podcast that when asking for advice, instead of asking what to do, we should ask how to think about the situation. Why? First, if we ask for what to do, and then we follow their advice but it turns out not the way we wanted, we might blame them. Second, if we don't follow their advice, then they might feel offended. Third, we should take responsibility for making our own decisions.

For example, I'm considering whether or not to go for a new job I was invited to apply for. Rather than asking people "What do you think?" or "What advice do you have?", I asked "What would be your decision making criteria in this situation?". As a result, I got much more useful advice from them, and I don't have to worry about them wanting me to make a particular choice because I didn't ask which choice they recommend.

On the flip side, when giving advice, instead of telling them what to do, tell them how to think about the situation. Why? People either want to make their own decisions, or they need to make their own decisions. By explaining to them decision making criteria, we empower them with knowledge and freedom, and we prevent ourselves from getting too invested in their choice, which is outside our control.

For example, one of my students asked me which university she should attend out of three choices. I had a bias towards one, but rather than telling her what I would choose, I told her a list of decision-making criteria and which university would fit better under which criteria. I don't know which criteria she values most, so it's inappropriate for me to recommend a choice. In the end, she chose a different one than I would've, which just proves that she valued different criteria. But regardless of her choice, I was happy for her, and I knew I did my responsibility as an advisor.


The next time you ask for or give advice, focus on the decision making criteria rather than picking a choice.


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