real life

Three simple ways to figure out whether advice is worth listening to.

In a sea of busyness and uncertainty, we can become a vacuum for advice that will help calm our angst and uncertainty, sucking it up from any outlet that’s willing to share it – and there are plenty.

I’m a self-proclaimed advice magnet. I seek it out, I spend more money on ‘helpful’ books then I should admit, and there are days when even my tea leaves seem to be trying to send me a message.

The majority of times, though, this frenetic advice seeking is simply a cover for the discomfort I feel in the uncertainty of what’s next; the hope that someone, somewhere, will have the silver bullet that will rescue me from the swamp of unrest I’m currently sinking into. That’s not to say that good advice isn’t good in this state, but just because you hear good advice doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Don't always take advice as gospel. (iStock)

As you step forward into your next thing - it might be a new venture, a new project, or even just working with a new team - you might find yourself scrabbling for advice, clutching onto what others have done as though it’s gospel. But just because it worked for ‘Susie’ doesn’t mean it will be work for you.

How can you discern whether advice is good for you, and when should you run in the other direction? The following are a few guidelines that I’ve found useful to consider before you make any drastic changes.

When is advice something you take with a grain of salt?

When it’s unsolicited. Just because someone’s got an opinion doesn’t mean you need to swallow it. If it comes your way without you asking, say thanks, pick out any gems if there are any, and move on. Quickly.

When it’s not about you. All of us see the world through our own lens. The friend who hates their job and starts a lobby group for you to leave yours could be an indication of the type of advice that is not actually about you. If it doesn’t feel right for you, move on.

When you're hangry. Or tired, or at the wrong end of a bottle of champagne.  You need to be in the right frame of mind to take advice on board. If you’re not, defer the conversation - even for five minutes, reset and then come back in.

good advice
Alison Hill: "If it doesn’t feel right for you, move on." (Image supplied)

Having said that, there are times that we need to hear things that might be uncomfortable and hard. So, when can advice be actually good for you?

Again, these guidelines can help you sift out what to actually take some time with:

When you’ve asked for it. Yep, you’ve actually given the other person permission to share their opinion, it’s highly likely you are seeking a solution for something you think they might be a valuable contributor on. Be specific, though - the ‘what do you think about my entire life’s choices?’ may not be that helpful.

Listen: Love Life is our new podcast sharing love advice that's both solicited and expert. (Post continues after audio.)

When their expertise exceeds yours. If the other person has a deep expertise or experience in the area you are seeking advice for, it’s highly likely this advice is worthy of your time. It might not match for your situation, but they have wisdom to pass on that could be like a breath of fresh air in a car at the end of a family road trip (with three teenage boys).

When they have YOUR success at heart. Those who actually ask you questions first, seek to clarify what would be helpful to you now, and who, at the end of the day want nothing but the best of success for you. That person is the person I’d listen to.

And if they tell you to back yourself, then that’s pretty good advice too.

good advice

Alison Hill is a psychologist and co-founder of Pragmatic Thinking, a behaviour and motivation strategy company. An international and in-demand keynote speaker, Alison is also the best-selling co-author of Dealing with the Tough Stuff, and Stand Out: A real world guide to get clear, find purpose and become the boss of busy (Wiley $27.95). For more information visit her website or contact [email protected].

00:00 / ???