As a business owner, mentor, and proponent of personal growth, I always appreciate receiving advice on a wide range of subjects. And honestly, I’m constantly surprised at when and where the most valuable thoughts come from. Some days it’s an exec on my team, then other days it’s a mentee who I’m supposed to be advising.
Over the years, what I’ve discovered in both giving and receiving advice is that it’s never actually about who’s delivering it—it’s always about how and at what moment it’s being delivered that makes it stick. Since this process is more of an art than a science (think about all the unsolicited or generally bad feedback you’ve received), consider these additional tips the next time you’re asked—or not asked—to share your point of view.
1. Deliver it for the Right Reason
First things first, it’s not about you, it’s about the person you’re talking to. In my experience, providing truly useful advice starts by coming from a selfless place. If you have ulterior motives, stop while you’re ahead. Second, you need to keep it real. Using real-life experience versus anecdotes or third-party tips can make your advice that much stronger. If the person seeking advice likes what they hear, you can dive deeper into the subject and your own experience to make it that much more meaningful.
2. Read the Room
Determine whether the person you’re talking to is open to receiving your advice. Is she asking for it? No, literally, is she asking for it? If not, go back to step one and just re-confirm. If yes, make sure you’re listening to the question so you can deliver the best answer or point her in a direction that’ll help her further. If there’s no concrete question, assess her body language. Is she leaning into your conversation, does she seem engaged, eager to hear what you have to say? Paying attention to the situation can help you both come out ahead.
3. Understand Your Target
By knowing who you’re talking to and how he listens or receives feedback, you can structure your advice in a way that will resonate. Does this person prefer anecdotes, personal stories, short takeaways, specific examples, or fuller context? Do you need visuals to help get your point across? What state of mind is he in—crisis mode or planning mode? All of this information makes a difference. If it means connecting on a personal level first to get a grasp of the person you’re dishing advice to, that’s fine. You might find that it helps you structure what you’re going to say accordingly.
4. Keep it Brief
Just in case you’re providing unsolicited advice and you’ve read your target wrong, err on the side of brevity. Don’t go on and on. Simply give the topline takeaway, and wait for a cue that more would be welcome. If the person wants more or would like you to elaborate on what you’re saying, believe me, she’ll ask. If she doesn’t, you’ll get a thank you, after which both of you can move on.
5. Know Your Expertise
This might be a given, but don’t give advice if you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Be candid with that fact and point the person in the right direction or connect him with someone who is an expert on the topic at hand. He’ll appreciate not only that you haven’t wasted his time but that you’ve moved him one step closer to what he’s seeking.
Good advice can come from anywhere. But to make it worthwhile, you need to make sure it’s relevant and that the person you’re talking to actually wants to receive it. Once you learn how to read the situation and offer your helpful thoughts accordingly, you’ll be one step closer to being a respected resource and trusted advisor.
Photo of man advising a co-worker courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Sarah Kauss is the CEO & Founder of do-good, beverage bottle company, S'well. She is a Fortune '40 under 40' honoree and a member of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program. Sarah earned a bachelor's in accounting from the University of Colorado Boulder and her MBA from Harvard Business School.More from this Author