Words Matter: How to Ask and Give Advice With Respect

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Advice: (noun) guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent future action.

Advice is a funny thing. Many love to give it, but are not always ready to receive it. But it’s the how in this matter that is really important, and it often can have a major effect on the message itself. Words matter.

The following is a list of suggestions and strategies for asking and giving advice to your peers, cohorts, collaborators, and students with respect and empathy.

Figure out who is the best person to give you the advice you’re seeking, and let them know why.

Any time someone has ever come to me for advice and coupled it with a compliment of why they feel I am an authority in that area, I find I am always so much more open to helping however I can. Not only because it’s a kind way to start any conversation, but because it’s thoughtful. It’s not just somebody mindlessly looking to be told what they want to hear, or looking for a sounding board.

Doing this shows there is authentic intention, and there nothing is more important than that when asking for guidance on something important to you.

Be conscious and respectful of their time.

It’s important to keep this in mind for most things in general, but especially when you’re coming to someone for advice. No one likes the endless loop of hearing problems, sharing potential solutions, and then hearing more about the same problems over and over again with no forward action or thought. Show that you care about their time and value it.

Cut to the chase. Be articulate in what advice you are looking for, why you are hoping they can help, and be thoughtful in your sharing so you can keep things clear and concise.

Listen. Really, really listen.

The most respectful thing you can do when asking someone for advice, is listen to it! I know this may sound obvious, but as humans, we definitely like to hear ourselves speak and can often catch ourselves in an instinct to over-talk or interrupt.

There have been times I’ve had clients come to me for music business consulting just to continuously talk over me to the point I’ve had to say, “It sounds like you’ve got a lot of thoughts on the matter, so how is it that you hope I can help?” Which is effectively a kind way of saying, “If you know it all, then why are you here?” People are oftentimes not even conscious of how they’re receiving advice until a moment like that.

So find the person whose opinion you value, have your questions prepared, and then truly be ready to be a sponge and listen openly when the time comes.

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Step back. Are you really the best person to be doling out advice to this person on their project?

There is no shame in this whatsoever. Honesty truly is the best policy and the best way to help someone genuinely. If someone has sought you out for help, it’s because they need it. If you feel like you are an authority on the matter or have more experience in that field, paying it forward with words of wisdom is a great thing you can offer someone.

Figure out the best way someone can be helped, even if it points them in another direction.

Oftentimes, ego gets involved in advice giving, and that never really ends well for either party involved. Know that it is okay to not know everything. This is a big part of giving advice with respect. If you feel like you’ve shared what you can, there is also so much value in helping to point someone in the right direction, even if it’s not toward you.

There are many times I’ve had music clients ask for my production expertise, and sometimes, it’s honestly just “above my pay grade.” There is zero shame in that, and I take pride in the fact that I’m always frank about what I know, what I don’t know, and where I truly add the most value in my profession. I would be doing someone a disservice to provide advanced education in an area where I know someone else could help them so much more, and people really respect that.

Be open to sharing if you feel there are other options out there to help elevate your advice further.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “The Difference Between Good and Bad Feedback.”

Be real. Sometimes the best advice isn’t always what someone wants to hear, but what they need to hear.

This is a big one. I don’t think it’s kind to waste anyone’s time, ever. Time is money, people! And bad advice can lead to a lifetime of mistakes that could’ve been avoided. The cold hard truth is always the best, even if it’s not the exact advice they were hoping for.

That being said, how the message is delivered makes all the difference, and being emotionally mature and aware of your audience when giving advice is a big part in how it will ultimately be received.

Know when to use the “kid gloves” and when to take them off.

Everyone is different! Know who you are dealing with. If someone’s emotions are running high on a topic, take your time in your advising, feel them out, and figure out the best way to ensure they’ll be receptive. It takes guts to ask for advice sometimes, so if you think it’s best to use the “kid gloves” to get your message across, then trust your gut with your delivery.

Likewise, if someone needs to be given it straight, no fluff, then be respectful of that too and cut right to the chase.

Come from a place of kindness. Always.

Every subject is different, and some are more difficult than others. But always remember whether you are the one asking for advice or giving it, to come from a genuine place of kindness.

Having the humility to ask for help is big, and oftentimes taking someone else’s advice and actually implementing it in your life is even bigger.

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by KimbraCom TruiseJlinRyan Lott, and the acclaimed Kiefer: Keys, Chords, & Beats.

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