How to Get Good Advice

by Julie Rains on 19 August 2009 5 comments

Sometimes the shortest and best path to making a decision or solving a problem is to ask for insights from a wise person. Here are ways to make sure you are getting good advice.

Figure out precisely what you need advice on. Just like a research paper, you can get the best results if you narrow your topic, though you may have to search for sources who have the expertise you need. So, rather than asking someone how you can make more money, ask how you can get a raise at your current workplace, how you might change jobs to earn higher pay, generate money through investments, or earn extra dollars through a side business. But, if you're not completely sure what type of advice you need, it's okay to ask a more general question; you can still get good advice but the responses may not match your expectations.

Get advice from a trustworthy person who won't belittle you or your decisions.  The saddest conversations I've witnessed or heard about are those in which the advice-giver demeans the person soliciting advice. Ideally, the advice-giver will show empathy and demonstrate some understanding of how you may have found yourself in need of advice. Perhaps you made one poor decision years ago, or didn't anticipate financial trouble in the recession but are having difficulties anyway. Advice should help illuminate the way from this point forward, not shine light on previous mistakes. 

Listen to people who admit making mistakes. The person who hasn't always navigated life perfectly can often give great advice, even if the advice sounds something like "don't do what I did." Usually, though, the advice-giver has learned to overcome the very obstacles that challenge you now. 

Realize that unsolicited advice is not always bad advice. I don't like anyone telling me what to do as much as anyone else. And, I've learned that unsolicited advice is usually un- or under-appreciated and even alienating, if not downright wrong. Still, just because you didn't ask for guidance doesn't automatically mean that it's bad advice.

Seek advice from people who aren't just like you, such as those younger or older than you are. Getting good advice means getting a perspective on a problem that is different from your own. To get insights that you wouldn't otherwise discover, talk with people who have varied experiences and viewpoints. Consider if their values match yours, though, before taking a recommended action.

Understand that advice should help you to make a decision, not tell you what your decision should be. Though I can be firm in giving advice (not to random people but to those very close to me, whose personal circumstances I know very well), I don't second-guess others' decisions, especially if they follow advice contrary to what I'd recommend. You may not be able to articulate and share every detail of a situation, so advice you receive may be valuable but not fully applicable to your circumstances. Judge for yourself based on insights provided by your friends, mentors, etc.  

Look to those who have a long-term record of success. Make sure that you aren't asking for advice based on someone else's recent or short-term success. Look to someone who has experienced success in prosperous and difficult times. 

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Guest

with the article's advice.

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robb

i'm agree with the listening to ppl who admit making mistakes part. that totally makes sense.

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shibumi

thanks a lot. this is a really good advice.

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Awesome article, great advices! Will keep them in mind.

Guest's picture

Nice article and great advice, thankyou.

Often people can be too emotional to listen clearly to what another is saying. When in need of good advice it can be helpful to mentally step back and relax so that your emotional mind does not over-ride your logical mind. If you are feeling overly emotional you can relax just by focusing on breathing deeply for a few moments, then you will be able to think more clearly and be logical about who to seek advice from. You will also better absorb their response.