Advice on Advice: How to Stop Talking and Start Listening, with Noah Kass

We all need a little advice on giving advice.  That’s why we brought in Noah Kass (@noahkass), columnist at TheStreet.com,  licensed social worker and therapist based in New York.

In this turn on Kass’ Couch, we take a look at something that we may not actually reflect on enough — how we engage with others when they ask for our help.  Noah believes that we’re a society infatuated with giving each other advice.  The problem is, he says, we all stink at it.  (He’s written an entire article on this, which you can check out here.)

“In a perfect world it would be the exchange of ideas.  We’d listen to each other, build on each other’s ideas, come up with new innovation — but it’s not.  Like you said, we suck at it!” says Noah.

It seems like when we’re asked for advice, our mouth starts moving, but we stop listening.  ”When we’re asked to give advice, we take the power position always, immediately.  We stop listening to anything the person is asking, and we go on our soapbox and start giving a monologue, to tell them how it is,” explains Noah.

He also says it’s important to really engage in a back-and-forth, not just spout off right away.  ”When someone’s asking for advice, they’re not necessarily asking you ‘where should I go get a sandwich?’  They’re asking to engage in a dialogue because they respect who you are.  But immediately, we usually cut them off and start giving them that monologue.  And that person becomes introverted.  Because, naturally, asking for advice is a humbling prospect,” says Noah.

Here are some basic pointers for being a better advice giver.

1. Observe your own ego. Try to watch yourself while you’re speaking.  Take a deep breath, stop yourself talking, slow down, and start really listening.

2. Lighten up on absolutes. You’re rarely 100% right all the time about a given subject, and that’s okay.  If you don’t know the answer to a question someone is asking, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know, you’re not sure, or that you’re going to reach out to someone else who has more expertise.   Beware of “musts,” “shoulds” and “have to’s.”

3.  Show you actually care.  When you care about someone, you don’t preach to them, you don’t moralize — you speak sincerely.  You actually listen to what they have to say, and cater your responses to their body language and tone.

It’s also important to focus on creating a less judgemental ego, and a more “observing ego.”  Noah says that can be difficult, because our culture is so fast paced and immediate — but it’s important to think about and practice.  Observe yourself having a conversation, and allow yourself to have the patience to let the other person finish talking before you speak.

To us, that sounds like good advice for almost any conversation.

LEARN MORE: Noah Kass: On Giving Advice (TheStreet.com)

 - Meg Robertson is a digital producer for DylanRatigan.com.  She loves giving free advice.  Find her on Twitter @MegRobertson.