Some people are always confident, always know what they intend to do, and don’t feel the need to seek advice from others. Then there’s the rest of us. From time to time we desire a bit of feedback as we work through problems or choose between options. Yet opening yourself up to advice can be a bit tricky.
Perhaps you say you’re looking for a “sounding board” or a second opinion, but in reality you are seeking someone who will simply agree with you. When you need expert advice, you instead go to a close friend or family member you are sure will see things from your point of view. You get reassurance, but did you really get advice?
Then there are those who can’t make any decision without taking a survey. You know who you are. Every issue ends up with you taking a poll of all your friends, family, and professional acquaintances about what you should do. At the end of this long process you’ve got dozens of opinions and recommendations, but no clear path forward.
Balanced advice is in between these two extremes. Here are some steps for getting balanced advice.
1. Select your advisers with care. Don’t just ask those who love you for feedback, especially on professional issues. Talk to people with the knowledge you need.
2. Limit your advisers. Taking a generalized poll about decisions seldom provides clarity. Case in point: I once asked a large group about a potential book cover and asked them to vote on it. The result was a cover I did not like, and when I finally spoke to an expert on the topic I discovered I needed some other elements I had not considered.
3. Give your advisers good information. If you are going to ask someone to guide you, or give you pointers on a situation make sure they know all the details. What’s the budget? The timeline or deadline? How does this particular decision fit into your larger plans?
It’s in our nature to turn to others during challenging moments. The key is to get just enough new information, feedback, and guidance to help you make your own decision with confidence. Like any other adulting skill, the ability to get and act on balanced advice can be learned.