When seeking advice, especially from someone you believe can offer great perspective, stick to gaining clarity on the big questions you need help figuring out.
The advice you receive is obviously for you to consider, not to blindly implement.
And especially not for you to defend when receiving it.
Clarify if you think something was misunderstood. I have observed a good number of people claim to seek advice, but the moment the people they seek advice from points out an improvement area, they try to defend it and start chatting about it.
That is usually the ego’s defenses kicking in, which is natural. However, when we try defending and chat about it, that distracts and diverts focus from that very aspect of our behaviour that we hope to improve on (and why we seek advice for).
When I seek advice, I consider the duration of the meeting or interaction as a time to be quiet.
Start with your most important question.
A good person to seek advice from would ideally ask you more questions for context before jumping to ‘advice’.
Counterintuitively, be wary of those who jump to advising with little knowledge about your context.
And every once in a way, you add more questions or course correct, if you feel the challenge you’ve sought help on has not been accurately understood or has been addressed incorrectly.
But apart from that, seeking advice should be about attentive listening, note-taking, and hopefully getting a new way to look at the challenge, and some ways to take a shot at it.
It should not be like a casual conversation with a friend just for the kicks of relieving the pressure or discomfort from it, though if you choose the people you seek advice from well, the conversation will have that effect on you as an incidental benefit.
Here’s a thought.. And I welcome your thoughts in return..
Back when I was in the ninth standard/grade in school, while I wasn’t too bright in studies. With the exception of Math and Physics. In those two, I was competing for between the 6th and 9th position in class. They weren’t subjects I had to study or know. It just somehow came logically.
Feeling comfortably confident while preparing for a Physics exam, I got thinking about the kind of questions I would have asked, had I got a chance to set the paper. I did manage to frame quite a few interesting and not-so-direct questions. I was glad that I also managed to answer my tricky questions.
Then something struck.
It dawned on me that it isn’t very easy to frame intelligent questions. And that I wouldn’t have been able to do so had I not known the subject well. Considering I hadn’t had similar luck with a lot of other subjects at the time or even later.
Voltaire knew what he was saying when he urged us all to “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
The way I see it, all of us are trying to be experts at one or more things. Which is a good thing. But we aren’t experts when we think we know the answers. We become experts whenever we frame the right questions. It is because questions set us on the right course. Answers, on the other hand are abundant and commonplace. Most importantly, answers frequently change too. Hence the importance on questions.
Don’t believe me, ask someone for their views on a topic or question close to your heart. With the limited information you give them, you’d be amazed at all the confident advice you receive. But if they’re not initially replying to your question with some intelligent questions of their own, you can safely assume one of two things: either they’re experts and have done some thinking around that space recently; or they haven’t a clue.
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