Do you like to give advice?
I don't know how many times people have asked me for advice and in return I just let them hear what I had to say about what I thought they wanted to know. That has two big problems:
- Maybe I haven't really understood their issue, and
- Maybe they aren't really ready for advice until they've thought it through
By asking questions, I can learn more about their situation to find out if I even have advice worth sharing on that situation. Sometimes, they have all they need to solve the problem by themselves.
Also, by asking questions and letting them think through the situation in greater detail, they can tell that I'm not just going to pull out a stock answer -- and the answer will come from our dialogue together, not some ready-supply of world wisdom. I'm smart, but I can't solve everyone's problem.
How about this -- do you like to get advice?
Asking for advice (without paying for it) can be an imposition. It can also be rude. It can also be risky because once you ask for advice whoever provides that advice will expect you to follow it.
Before I ask for advice now, I ask questions to explore whether my inquiries are both welcome and useful for both of us. I'm more interested in collaborating solutions than consuming them.
Or, how about this -- does anyone ever offer you advice you didn't ask for?
That's always fun isn't it -- or not! When that happens I've learned to ask questions to find out why they think I need or want that advice. Maybe I do and I just don't realize it yet. Or, maybe I don't and any advice will get in the way of a plan already in place. Once again, I'd rather collaborate than consume.
When in doubt, when put out, when you feel about to shout -- ask questions.
Ask questions before giving advice and ask questions before taking it.
The right questions can save you hours of aggravation and misunderstanding.
-- doug smith