A while ago, a business owner sought me out for a consulting gig.
Basically, he had already decided to do business with me before we even met.
Can you imagine a better gig than this? But, I bombed it… I successfully talked him out of it…
Here’s what happened:
I knew I could help bring his business to the next level, so I tried very hard to tell him what he should do.
I knew I was right and I got very frustrated when he didn’t listen.
End of the story.
Since then, I’ve wondered “Why didn’t he just listen to me when I could objectively solve his problems?"
Why People Don’t Always Listen To Your Advice, Even If You Are Right?
Think about how many times you recommend a solution to your customers/clients/patients, but they don’t take your advice, even if when they knew it was in their best interest to do so?
In your personal life, think about when your friend is in a bad relationship and you point out the obvious “He treats you like crap. ” She says “I know.” and stays in that relationship anyway?
It took me a while to realize that: 1) People don’t like to be told that they’re doing something wrong, even if they know it, 2) Good advice doesn’t necessarily change what people do.
In a famous paper called They Saw a Game: A Case Study (1954), team members from Dartmouth and Princeton disagreed on what happened during a football game. (You can read more about the study here.)
Despite how simple we think a situation is, we do not objectively see what happens around us.
I used to eat sweets like a maniac (an eight-inch chocolate cake for dinner, anyone?) and I thought I should do something about it, so I asked my friends, “Should I stop eating sweets?”
Friend A: Of course you should, sugar is bad for you. Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease…
(Secretly: I already heard that advice a million times...)
Soon, I ignored my friend A's advice and kept eating sweets like I used to.
Friend B: Nah, it’s OK. I like sweets too. Maybe you can save the cake for 2 meals instead of eating it all at once?
Me: I think I can do that!
(Secretly: Ha, I don’t really want to stop eating sweets, but I can do this!)
In fact, I took her advice and ate less and less sweets over time.
In general, facts do not change what we do. Nobody cares about how “objective” your advice is.
Ironically, when most people come to you for advice they already know they are doing something wrong.
When I asked my friends, I knew I should stop eating so many sweets. I knew added sugar is bad. I had the same amount of information as anyone else. In fact, I watched the EXACT same documentaries as my friend A.
What I did to the business owner who sought me out was exactly what friend A did to me.
It’s easy to throw a bucket of “Here’s 100 things you should do” at him, but I forgot to think about what he has tried in the past. How did it work out for him? How did his employees react to the things he tried?
There are more important factors than “Here’s 100 things you should do”.
Unfortunately, I keep seeing “experts” obsessed with their own encyclopedic knowledge who seemingly take any opportunity to show off. “I can present a glossary of jargon like SEO, SEM, PPC. Will anyone care? Who knows! But I sure sound smart!”
What Do People Really Want When Asking for Your Advice
It sounds really simple, but it took me a while to realize that we are not rational.
I always thought the help I had to offer is the most important part of the conversation and I liked to offer it immediately.
But a lot of times, we just want someone who can listen to us without judgment. When we give advice to a friend/client/patient, we tend to forget to listen before we blurt out our opinions.
According to David A. Garvin and Joshua D. Margolis, authors of “The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice” (Harvard Business Review, January–February 2015 Issue), someone will be far more likely to listen and accept your advice if you first develop a shared understanding.
Once you’ve listened carefully and established your understanding of their situation without expressing judgment, you can carefully begin offering advice.
Have you ever had a client/customer/patient or friend/family member who refused to follow your advice? Why do you think that is?
If you know someone who has been in a similar situation, do him a favor and share this article with him.
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