The Art of Giving Advice

The Art of Giving Advice

Every month* (approximately 2-4 days after the actual deadline), I write an advice column for our local community arts paper The Humm. It's a goofy column in which I respond to readers' questions with whatever answers I can come up with. I don't take it overly seriously. I don't think my readers do either. But I do try to give solid advice. Not everything is a big fat joke you know.

This month I decided to write about the Art of Giving Advice. You can find my column in the February edition of The Humm.

And also, right here...

Anyone can give advice. We're all professionals at having an opinion and imposing it on others. (Personally, I'm excellent.) But good advice? Good advice isn't really about you. It's about the person seeking it.

Allow me to side bar. My first career job was as a Junior Copywriter at an advertising agency in Toronto. I worked there for nearly 4 years before I began to feel my spirit being broken. My partner was a super talented Art Director, and though we worked well together, our personalities were entirely different. My boss, our Creative Director, was tasked with managing both of us, and he did so by treating us in exactly the same way. But we were different. You couldn't manage us in the same way because we didn't respond to the same things in the same way. What encouraged the best work out of me, didn't do so for her, and vice versa. The two of us were never happy, fulfilled or successful at the same time because of it, and eventually we all sort of combusted. I remember thinking a great deal about how important it is to manage individuals even within a team scenario. And that, if ever I was someone's boss I would work to communicate with them in whatever way was most effective for them. There is an I in team after all. (Editor: Please fact check this saying).

"But Miss Write," you're thinking, "what does this have to do with giving good advice?"

Giving quality advice has everything to do with who's asking for it. The best advice comes from someone who actually cares about the advice seeker. I don't always know who the lovely folks who send me questions are, no. But I always take the time to think about what it might be like to be in their situation.

I always imagine that person is a friend and try to feel out what kind of response they actually need to make their own decision. And then I try to add a little levity to the answer. To make someone smile is to lift a little weight from the decision to be made. This is life. There are no right answers, only countless choices and paths, all of which lead somewhere. (Even if that somewhere requires another decision to be made).

The best advice allows people to think for themselves and to know that they're not alone in whatever they decide.

My advice on giving advice? Be a thoughtful listener. Be a supportive friend. Make 'em smile.

xo Em

*almost every month