Don’t Be a “Should-er”: How to Give Advice Better

Recently I attended a monthly gathering of female entrepreneurs.  As soon as I walked in the door I saw another member of the group coming toward me and I got tense and felt like hiding.

You see, this woman is a “should-er.”  She’s one of those people who, every time I am with her, tells me all of the things I “should” be doing for my business.  People I “should” meet (not that she’s offering to introduce me). Tactics I “should” try.  Markets I “should” target.

It’s not that I mind taking advice. In fact, I really appreciate good suggestions and am glad that people care enough about me and my business to offer them.

But I’ve realized that there are three things that separate the people from whom I appreciate getting advice from and the “should-ers”:

1. They wait to be asked, or they ask if I would like any advice before launching into it.

2. They ask questions first to learn more about what I already have done or what my objectives are.

3. They have humility—they may not have all the answers, but they are sharing their thoughts based on their learning and experience.

How to Give Advice (without Being a "Should-der") -

Recently I joined a Vistage group, which is a peer-mentoring group for CEOs. One of the reasons I joined was because of the approach they take to helping fellow CEOs and group leaders (aka coaches) tackle their issues.  After we present an issue we are struggling with to the group, each member can only ask questions in the first round of feedback. In the second round, they can offer solutions, once they have learned more about the issue.

At that meeting, I did something that I don’t do often enough, something that’s pretty scary for me.  I told this woman that while I liked seeing her and felt she has a lot to offer, I didn’t appreciate that she bombarded me with unsolicited advice every time I see her. I told her it made me feel overwhelmed and raised my stress level.

It wasn’t easy to be so honest, but later that night she apologized and told me she would only offer me advice in the future if I asked.

Do you have any “should-ers” in your life? How do you cope with them? I’d love to hear your advice on this!


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