A friendly advice to stop giving advice

On asking questions instead of giving advice.

At my favorite conference-at-sea last year, I joined a workshop on mastermind groups. Besides doing a great job with defining what it is and can do for you, Jimmy and Alex also set a few guiding principles. One was daring to be vulnerable. Another, which I want to highlight here, was to focus on asking questions instead of going into problem-solving mode.

Simple advice, yet, so difficult to follow.

We sat down in groups of four to practice our own mastermind session, with 12 minutes per person to share a challenge and for the others to give input. When you hear someone describe what they struggle with, you listen through your own history filter—you fill in the blanks, based on what you experienced. They say a, you think aha, the whole alphabet. And you’re rarely aware of doing so.

Having short conversations where people did not give unsolicited advice, and instead tried to really understand what you were saying, made it clear how rare that is. Instead of explaining how I already knew this or that, I got the chance to dive deeper into my real issue.

And the same goes how how I act. To listen and ask open questions, it’s hard. Sharing your story, which you know by heart and can adapt like it’s play-dough to fit into anything, is easy.

But you can probably guess what makes for a better experience.

LifeSanna Stefansson