Have you ever asked someone for advice, they told you what they thought you should do, and suddenly you got a knot in your stomach? That knot was your body’s way of telling you that the advice conflicted with what you wanted to do.
Or maybe you felt yourself breathe with greater ease, because the advice confirmed what you had subconsciously decided.
Most of the time when we seek advice regarding a decision, we have already decided how we want to proceed.
Or we approach a mentor, manager, friend, or coach with the pretense of questions to which we already know the answers.
Why do we do this?
Sometimes we can’t fully see our decision until we hear that conflicting or confirming advice. Other times it because we want reinforcement. Maybe we secretly want to be talked out of a decision because we have a conflict between our head and our heart.
When you seek guidance from others, it’s most helpful to you and the advice-giver if you go in knowing what you want.
- Do you want someone to agree with you, to confirm you’re “right”?
- Do you want someone to disagree with you and provide a counterpoint so you can strengthen your resolve?
- Do you want someone to disagree with you and convince you to take a different path?
- Do you simply want emotional support in doing what you’ve already decided to do?
- Do you want to be shown your blind spots?
- Are you just curious about the person’s opinion?
You’ll get the most out of the conversation if you tell the person from whom you’re seeking advice what you want to receive.
It also helps to consider how you’ll use what you receive. Do you have the agency, authority, and autonomy to change course based on what you learn? If so, are you willing to change course? If not, why are you seeking advice? Just for someone to agree with you?
You’ll get much more out of your conversation if you go in knowing
- what you really want to receive and
- how you plan to use the advice you receive.