Why I Gave Up Advice

Sept. 5th, 2016

Any time we have a problem there are always scads of people lining up to give us advice on how to solve it. Even if we didn't ask, even if we don't even really agree we have a problem, even if we are really quite happy, thank you very much, and really do not understand what the supposed problem is. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of advice.

When I went through ADHD coach training, I came to realize just how useless this practice really is. I know from personal experience that this unsolicited advice can range from mildly irritating to downright harmful, in certain instances.

I believe one reason it is so pointless is that any one of us cannot possibly fully grasp the experience of another. However well we know that other person, there is no way we can completely know what is in their head and heart. Therefore, any solution we come up with for their problem has a random chance of being useful because it came out of our own experience, not theirs.

In coaching, I strive to assist in clarifying, as fully as possible, all the facets and features of any given challenge. This can allow the person facing the challenge to create their own solution, making it as unique as they are. And this solution is almost always far more effective than any suggestion of anyone else’s (even mine) because it originated in the person who truly knows best.

An exception, naturally, is the topic of ADHD and its various symptoms. When it comes to working with our ADHD, a lot of us feel helpless and struggling in vain to find anything that will work. In these instances seeking the advice of a book on ADHD, a resource website such as TotallyADD.com, or a trained ADHD coach can be very valuable. However even these proffered strategies will increase in value once they are tailored and tweaked to fit the unique ADHD life.

So this is why I decided I would cease giving unsolicited advice, to anyone, not just my clients. I was wasting my breath and possibly annoying the person I intended to help.

And then a very unexpected thing happened. As soon as I made this promise to myself, friends and family started asking for my advice on specific topics. It was like the universe was having a great chuckle at my expense. And what can you really do at that point? So I laughed along.

One person asked me how I personally handle a specific situation, and I said “Do you mean in a practical sense or an emotional sense?” They told me that question was far more valuable than any of the advice that followed because it helped them explore their own conundrum further. Also the question beginning “How do you handle...” is particularly good for advice because it allows the other to simply consider and learn without there being any implication that it will definitely be helpful or relevant.

Then of course there are those verbal processors. What we need more than anything when facing a challenge is the time to get our thoughts from inside our brains, out our mouths, and to the world. Matt Smith’s Doctor Who once said “I don't know what the plan is yet; I haven't stopped talking.”

What advice do you give?