Advice on Giving Advice
When the right advice is given at the appropriate time, it improves lives. When off-hand, unsolicited advice is given, it may be a source of frustration. The concept of advice is to guide another person in making a decision or completing an action. As Speech Language Pathologists, we are often expected to provide advice and demonstrate expertise. We may inadvertently begin offering unsolicited advice to our colleagues, as well as our friends and family.
Sometimes advice isn’t about offering solutions, but about honoring thought processes. Early in my career, I worked in a wonderful, supportive program for children with high levels of needs. Sadly, this unique program was discontinued. I was confused and distressed. I talked to the school principal, seeking guidance and advice. As a new clinician, I had little knowledge of policy and funding issues. The principal said to me, “The fact that you care that this program is ending and that you see its value, shows me that you are a knowledgeable clinician.”
The principal didn’t lecture me about systems, revenue streams, or educational trends. She didn’t show me how much she knew about institutional practices. She let me know that there are times for advocacy and times for acceptance within one’s career, and within an organization. Most importantly, for me, she let me know that she believed in me. The underlying message that I heard, was that I was good at my job – that I was competent and capable
When we are given valuable advice, we remember it, because it changes our outlook and our self-perception. In our roles as experts, it is incredibly easy to slip into a state of offering advice continually – it just feels like it’s supposed to be our job, however a stream of recommendations isn’t always warranted.
Perhaps there are ways to give less advice in general and to start to offer the type of guidance that both teaches and inspires.
• Give specific advice only when it is directly solicited, e.g., “Can you give me some advice?”
• When you think that you have knowledge to offer, ask before you offer it: “I have some ideas about that, let me know if you want to hear them sometime.”
• Recognize the value of the question and the situation: “The fact that you are thinking about this issue shows that you are aware of a lot of the important factors.”
• Build the other person’s confidence: “Your concerns show me your dedication and commitment to providing quality services.”
• Inspire the other person to reflect and to act: “I think that you have might have some great ideas about how to start.”
Carefully timed and well-crafted advice allows others to shine and that is what is remembered. What advice has helped you in your career and what has made it memorable.