Advice is the basis of many commercial relationships. Clients want the best advice from their suppliers and suppliers to need to deliver the most valuable and actionable advice so they can charge a premium.

Firms hire the best possible experts in their field to deliver this advice. They find those that understand a subject with clarity and confidence and pay handsomely for their services. 

But actually how to give advice is something that not many focus on.

Whether its in person, over email or in a post. Giving advice is an art, I spent some time looking at the research around how to give advice in the best possible way.

Here’s what I found:

Start with being accessible and trustworthy

People often choose the wrong advisors, turning to unqualified friends or colleagues who don’t understand the subject matter. Several field studies have confirmed that people are more receptive to advice from likeable people rather than real experts. 

As an expert, you need to be accessible and cultivate a non-threatening persona. Advice seekers need an easy avenue to access your advice and should understand your track record of advice and expertise - as well as your personality in giving it. Imparting high levels of trust is essential to successfully delivering advice.

Listen to your audience first & build your advice collaboratively

People prefer information that confirms what they already know rather than information that challenges pre held assumptions (American Psychological Association, 2009)

To get someone to consider your advice if it doesn’t match up with their opinions, you need to collaboratively build a solution for them that keeps them feeling involved in the process. This is going to mean that you’re giving up some of the credit, but advice-seekers who feel like they have a hand in the advice they get are far more likely to action it.

For all kinds of advice, including forms such as Passle posts, this process starts by listening and observing how your audience defines their own problems, it is about then adding to and shaping this understanding. The earlier you can influence this process the better as less and less of your audience’s mind has been set.

Give the right kind of advice

Behavioral Scientists Reeshad Dalal and Silvia Bonaccio looked at different kinds of advice to determine what people want. In general,there were four kinds of advice they analysed.

  • Advice for - a recommendation to pick a particular option
  • Advice against - a recommendation to avoid a particular option
  • Information - a useful piece of knowledge
  • Decision support - suggestions on how to go about making a decision without bias to any of the options

Generally, for most decisions, people didn’t want to be given a recommendation. Rather, they preferred information as the most helpful form of advice. 

The subjects in the Bonaccio/Dalal study felt more comfortable and independent getting information. They also felt more confident in their own decision making. On top of all this, information is relevant and useful to other decisions in the future and can open up new dimensions of a topic.

Whatever the advice is that you are giving, and whoever you are giving it to, taking a small amount of time to consider how you give it can be the difference between being seen as a valuable asset or a necessary obstacle.