Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Posts Tagged ‘Advice’

A Personal Experience on the Difficulties of Giving and Accepting Advice

Posted by Steve on July 14, 2008

So it has been a little since I posted a good ‘thinker’ of a post but luckily for those of you have been just dying to read one, here we go. This post has actually been with me for a few weeks now, it is a continuation, in the form of a personal example, of why it is SO difficult to give advice. I am going to layout the events of what happened, then I will go into what I was thinking and feeling during the conversation in the following paragraph.

I was at the gym doing dead lifts, possibly one of the more difficult exercises to self monitor as far as form goes. I guess when I was doing the exercise my form was a little off, and with the amount of weight I was doing, it could have possibly gone poorly. So this was when one of the personal trainers who works at the gym comes up to me and says something to the effect of “Hey man, now I don’t mean to intrude or anything, but I think you need to focus a little more on your form.” I tell him that I was unaware that my form was off, he goes on to explain how I should be doing (like I don’t know), he also acknowledges that I am pushing a lot of weight, and that he does not want to diminish that fact. I simply say yes thank you, I will keep closer look in the future. He must have picked up on the fact that I wasn’t listening that closely because he kept going on about the dangers of not doing the exercise properly, and that if I focused on form, I would get the same benefits with less weight. I concluded the conversation by saying thank you and that I would make sure to try that next time.

So during this whole conversation, I was very very defensive, I acknowledged the fact that I probably did have bad form for the last few reps, and then thats all I wanted to hear. I stopped listening about 5 seconds into the conversation, and kept getting more and more agitated as he kept pushing at it; I was even aware that I was doing it, but that didnt matter! The most interesting thing is that I felt that way despite the fact that he did almost everything right:

He apologized for interrupting me,
He was in a position to know better (he is a personal trainer)
He tried to stroke the ego by mentioning the weight I was pushing
He provided reasoning behind why I should focus on form and how it wouldn’t effect my workout

He did almost everything right, yet I was still not receptive to anything he really had to say. This to me was very interesting, especially since I was aware of what was happening when he was telling me this. I then did some introspection, and I did find what it was that I took exception to, and it did have nothing to do with the personal trainer guy, it had to do with me, I don’t like to be wrong, even if I may be aware of it. I was proud of the weight I was doing, and then he came that I was doing it wrong, I was the wrong and in a public setting to boot. If this had been a private one on one training sessions and he had said I needed a little correction that would have been fine, but he pointed out that I was wrong in front of many people.

This was an interesting experience for me, because it demonstrated that there are times when you can do everything “right” but still not get the result you desire, even if you have the best intentions. The trainer guy just wanted to help me out, but I was having none of it, despite the fact he approached the situation almost perfectly. I would love to here other personal examples of when you got defensive when receiving advice or you noticed someone that was being difficult when you were giving advice because I find this topic very interesting, and every bit of experiential information helps to put this, sorry for the lame analogy, puzzle together.


Posted in People Problems, Work: General | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Giving and Accepting Advice… it shouldn’t be this hard, should it?

Posted by Steve on May 11, 2008

I have had thoughts on this topic for a while, and have had them surface recently because I have been reading the book “The Secrets of Consulting” by Gerald Weinberg and am about 50 pages into it. The book, as the title suggests is about consulting, which is in effect giving advice to people who say that they want. The reason I highlight say, is because the book discusses that even if someone says that they want your advice they rarely actually want it. I am going to go into my thoughts on firstly receiving advice, then I will go into actually giving it.

Receiving Advice
I have two questions to pose first, think about these two questions for a bit:

How often have you reacted adversely to someone trying to help you?
How often have you reacted adversely to someone giving advice?

From my personal experience I would rarely have an adverse reaction if someone is trying to help me, but as soon as someone offers advice, of any kind, I sometimes become defensive, discredit what they are saying or simply ask myself ‘why should they know better than I do?’. It is an interesting occurrence since the difference between the two is very minor. When someone gives advice, are they not trying to help you?

Maybe the difference is that if someone offers to help you, thats all it is help. But when someone gives you advice, perhaps you are admitting to yourself that someone else knows more than you, that they know better than you. I think that that is exactly where the problem lies, just because someone gives you advice on something, it does not mean that they necessarily know better.

Since I have had these feelings of defensive towards receiving advice, I have actively tried to be receptive to all advice, because it can never hurt to hear someone’s advice, the worst case scenario, it is not good advice and you choose to ignore it. I really feel that your attitude to receiving advice is what really matters, so to try to be more receptive to advice, I actively try to listen and be open to any advice people are willing to offer, and then if it does turn out that I feel it is not pertinent or good advice, I simply file it away and do not act on it, as stated above hearing the advice cannot hurt.

Giving Advice
I wrote a little more than expected on receiving advice, so I will only state the most important thing I have learned about giving advice, something that my dad actually taught me: Always ask if someone wants your advice before giving it. I always ask someone, “would you like advice” before giving any, and will actually not proceed to give them any if they say no. That is actually the most difficult part, not giving advice when you want to, but it is important to know unwanted advice will usually have a neutral or negative impact. Furthermore if someone refuses your advice, it feels a bit like a personal insult, like they think you do not know what you are talking about; that is another thing that is difficult to get over, but is still very important, often times someone not wanting advice has very little to do with you specifically, often people want to work through things on their own.

There you have it, a few thoughts on receiving and giving advice. This is definitely a topic I am looking to expand on and these are just some first thoughts.

Advice, good or bad, should always be heard but need not be acted on.
–Steve Swanson

Posted in Work: General | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »