Take Time to Seek Advice

4 Tips for seeking advice

Take Time to Seek Advice

“All of us, at certain moments in our lives, need to take advice and receive help from others.” — Alexis Carrel

There are times when the best thing we can do is to seek advice from someone with more knowledge, wisdom or differing point of view. We do not know everything and we all have flat spots that keep us from having a full perspective on every subject. There are times we need to ask others for their advice so that we can gain more information, sort through the perspectives and come to an informed opinion.

No matter the area of our personal or professional lives, we are always encountering new choices that require additional information to allow us to make a good decision. Whether choosing a new car or making an investment for our retirement or a tough decision at work, we need additional information to form a thoughtful perspective as a basis to make our best decision.

A starting point is often seeking more knowledge. We need more facts and reality-based information to help us know more about the subject and the options. Which are the best products or services, are there alternatives, what do they cost and what benefit do they return? These are just a few examples of the core fact finding that we need to pursue to become more informed on the subject, before moving forward.

The next area to pursue in forming our perspective is to seek the wisdom of others. In this area there are many tools we can use to seek the perspective of others. By examining the feedback others have provided through reviews and comments we can gain the benefit of their opinion. Examples include looking at the ratings and discussions on an Amazon purchase or considering the feedback on Yelp about a restaurant. In addition we can talk to others that have experience with the product or service we may be considering or talk with others that have made the same decision recently.

Before fully forming our own perspective, we should consider the opinions of those with a differing point of view. Consider carefully why others hold a different opinion. Is it a majority or minority opinion? Using the Amazon example, we should carefully consider the advice of the few that gave a lower rating in their feedback. Was their feedback based on actual use while others were commenting on the initial purchase? Was the restaurant review based on actual experience or reflection of the way it used to be? There is real value in understanding the objection as well as the recommendation.

The best people to turn to are people that have traveled this road before. These people have been through some sort of evaluation process and came to a conclusion. If they moved forward with a purchase or entered into an agreement to move forward, they will have a first-hand view of the relative success of their decision. We may not agree with their decision process or even their eventual choice, but we will have another data point from another perspective to base the formation of our perspective.

We need to be prepared to sort through the advice and separate the fact from opinion. Both are good, but we use them in different ways. The facts are the things that actually happened or are directly provable as part of our evaluation, while opinion is the qualitative review of the decision and can vary with the bias and experience of the person providing the feedback. Both are good forms of input and ultimately help paint an accurate portrayal of the opportunity. We just need to be sure that we separate the two in our consideration of the appropriate action to take.

Now that we are more deeply informed, we will need to consider all of the input and synthesize a perspective. Considering the facts, opinions and experiences we will need to decide which point of view best represents our findings. There will be facts that help us understand the full dimensions of our choice and opinions that both support our inclination and challenge it. Ultimately, we will have to make a decision, but now we are at a point of much higher knowledge upon which to base our decision. Having completed our analysis, we can make our decision and know that we made the best decision we could at the time.

So how can we seek advice to improve our decision making? Here are 4 tips for seeking advice:

Take Time to Process

4 Tips to make time for processing

Take Time to Process

A lot of things happened today, and the day before, and last week, well come to think of it last month as well and we have been really busy. And that is the problem, we have been so busy and inundated with information and events, and we have not had time to process all of it.

By some estimates we see over 5,000 advertisements per day. Some of us receive well over 100 emails per day. Then there are the tweets, text messages, news stories on the Internet, 24 hour cable news and commentaries; some of which we agreed with and other we found unsettling. In addition there were the comments made by friends and acquaintances that we did not fully internalize, then there was that comment from the boss, and that peculiar look from across the room to the comment we made. Wonder what that was about?

That is a lot of communication with a lot of information and that was just today. Each day is similar, from the time we get up to the time we go to bed we are flooded with incoming communications. What is worse we are enabling this flood by maximizing our exposure through the use of our technological devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, laptops, television, radio, podcasts, video sharing and more. We have communications input devices in front of our faces most of our conscious hours.

Here is another thought, when was the last time we were bored? I mean really bored with nothing to do? We are so addicted to this flood of input that a recent study indicates that some of us would rather receive an electric shock than spend 15 minutes alone with ourselves. We have shortened our span of attention to the point we do not even know what to do when we have a few minutes to ourselves.

We need time to process. When in all of this busyness do we get the time to process all of this input? When do we get the chance to reconcile all of the various conflicting information, or consider the important things that were said or reflect on the things that did not seem to fit with our thinking or understand the strange reaction to something that was said?

And then when do we have the time to deal with the emotions as we start to analyze today’s happenings, when do we purge the things that do not matter and put away the thoughts that we want to keep?

Pretty soon we find that we are not the people we want to be. We are stressed, confused, tired, anxious and impatient. We find ourselves surprised at our own overreaction to what should be minor annoyances and are unnerved at how unprepared we feel for everything.

Processing time is essential to our well being. We need time alone with our own thoughts to think through our experiences and deal with the emotional baggage. Some of our thoughts are helpful for the future and need to be placed in our long-term storage. Others need to be considered and discarded. We need time to live through the emotional replay of the input and deal with the implications. Once the emotions are played out we need time to resolve the outcome into new actions or opinions. We need time to let the bad emotions out and go away. We need time to straighten up our mental house, put things away and to take out the trash.

Some of this can be dealt with by our subconscious while we sleep but there is a portion that we have to process while we are awake. These thoughts cannot be ignored. We are hard-wired to make the connection between our conscious thinking and our subconscious. We can’t solve or let go of problems if we don’t allow ourselves time to think about them.

Our creativity stems from our ability to put new ideas together when we are not processing the past. Our deepest thinking happens when we are able to empty our minds and let it roam through our experiences to help us rationalize our reality and apply new approaches. We have to be able to empty our minds of the inputs we have backlogged to be able to have forward thinking. When we do not provide sufficient time for thinking and processing we are actually lowering our productivity. Our busyness and multi-tasking actually produce less than if we take some time just to process.

So how do we get more time to process? Here are 4 tips to make time for processing:

Take Time to Listen

4 Tips for better listening

Take Time to Listen

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill

Take time to listen to people. It is easy advice and it makes sense and yet seems very hard to incorporate as a habit. We are all very busy and when we get the chance to communicate one-on-one we often find that we are not really listening to the other person, we are just using the time that they are speaking to frame-up our next thought. That is not communication, that is speechmaking. Communication requires that someone is listening.

While stating our opinion and offering advice feels good and is important, there are times when refraining from talking and just pausing to listen can be even more effective and persuasive. Listening without distraction, really listening to the other person can help us better understand the issue being discussed. By taking time to truly listen we also provide space for the other person to provide perspective that may alter our next thought. Additionally, pausing to listen provides the feedback that we value their opinion.

While this seems readily apparent, it is not our common practice. We tend to pause to allow the other person to talk but not process what they are saying and just use the time to formulate our next attack on their perspective. Sometimes we use the filibuster technique of monopolizing the available time for conversation under the belief that if the other person does not get a chance to object, they must agree. Of course, in reality that does not work, it only serves as a barrier to keep the other persons perspective out of the conversation (or should I say monologue). In fact it really sets up conflict as the other person has to battle to get their perspective heard at all.

We will be much more effective leaders and partners if we take the time to listen; really listen. Stop, take a breath, ask a leading question and then listen to what the other person has to say. Chances are we actually value what the other person has to say or we would not have allowed the opportunity for this conversation to take place. We benefit from the perspective of other people, so let the other person talk. We will probably learn something as well as reinforce a give-and-take relationship for future conversations.

Nothing bad is going to happen to us as a result of listening. We can always ignore the advice or feedback if it does not fit. We do not always believe everything we hear, but hearing it does give us the opportunity to evaluate our perspective. There is no downside to being a good listener.

We all could do a better job of listening. Here are some tips for being a better listener: