It is one of the most natural things in the world - to tell someone else what we think they should do.
We do it out of love, out of concern, because we like to help, sometimes because it makes us feel good, creates a bit of a dependence or respect with the other party. Sometimes we simply want the other person to do things our way.
We have many reasons, both good and not so good for giving advice.
Usually, nowhere is easier to slip in to this mode than with our life partner.
Advice and being told what to do are opposite sides of the same coin. Most of us feel good about sharing advice. Most of us rarely like being told what to do.
No surprise - Harvard Business Review has actually studied the best practices for giving and receiving feedback and advising. It’s a great read: https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-art-of-giving-and-receiving-advice
Here are a few key points that really can make our experience with our partner so much healthier around this topic of either giving or receiving advice.
1) Permission-based advice.
Make sure first, before you offer your pearls of wisdom that the other person is actually looking for them.
When someone freely starts telling us what we should do or should have done and we are not ready to hear it, it can be jarring. I might be thoroughly enjoying the meal I cooked and initially could feel offended, hurt, mad, etc. if you start telling me the ways I could or should have done it differently.
Permission can come either by the person wanting to give advice or feedback asking if that would be ok and when OR by someone asking specifically for advice.
Having advice really be useful and valued, a desire for it needs to be present. Ideally it will be explicitly stated or granted.
2) Listening is critical to advising.
Even when your partner clearly wants you to advise them, start with listening.
• How are they feeling about the topic or situation?
• What specifically do they need to hear about from you?
• How vulnerable are they on this topic?
• What have they tried or done already that you can acknowledge?
3) Is there an opportunity to encourage their growth?
Giving advice, even when asked for, can sometimes short-circuit the growth and confidence of our partner. Unintentionally it can send a message that they should doubt their own judgment or opinion.
Asking questions, listening to your partner’s ideas and sometimes even refusing to share your ideas can be very empowering (this needs to be done lovingly, obviously, pointing out that their way, their opinion, is valid).
Brainstorming with vs. telling is another great way to both support and encourage your partner’s strengths.
So, how would you like to grow in how and how much advising you do?
How do you want to ask for advice and feedback to make it more effective for you?
Until next time,
Marilyn Orr, The Luv Life Coach
Marilyn Orr, MA, CEC, PCC is a relationship coach with Luv Life Coaching, passionate about equipping couples with the tools for real and lasting intimacy.
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