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On a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy are driving around in a Porsche Carrera talking about anything and everything.  Seinfeld says, “You know when you see two people talking, one of them is giving the other one advice…saying something like, ‘What I’ve learned…’ or ‘In my experience…’”

What Do You Think?

It’s funny because we know it’s true — we’ve all been on the sending and receiving end of unsolicited advice.  As this Psychology Today article confirms, however, being told what we should do actually makes us feel defensive.  When a coaching client asks for advice, I remind them that my job is to help them find their own answers.  If they insist, I might say, “What I’ve seen others do in a similar situation is…” and then ask, “How do you feel about that?”

Own It

Research tells us that giving advice appeals mostly to the rational parts of the brain.  I also want to engage the feeling part of the brain so my client can make the best possible decision – and own it.

As I’m writing, I realize that I need to practice this approach more in my personal life.  Is there anything you might need to change in how you respond when someone asks for advice? Here is a Harvard Business Review article that might be helpful.  Notice I didn’t say that you should read it!

Have you ever been told, “You shouldn’t care so much what other people think”?  Caring what others think can come from wanting respect or trust, both of which are reasonable unless we let someone else decide whether we deserve them.

Don’t Let Others Define You

In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says that we don’t need to stop caring about what other people think of us, but we don’t have to be defined by them.  What would you need to define yourself as someone who respects your own judgment and trusts your own instincts?

Listen to Yourself

Listen to yourself first – and last.  Seeking other opinions can be valuable in thinking through your options and validating your instincts but you’re the one who has to live with your decisions.  Try keeping track of your success rate for three months and be the one to identify what defines you.