Lucy_doctor_standAdvice. Nobody wants advice. Not from me. Not from you.

If I give Louie advice, he either accepts it or rejects it. If he accepts it, I’m responsible. If he rejects it, he wonders if I might have been right. Either way, he resists my ideas. Louie could be anyone: a workmate, a friend, an audience of 200, a child, a parent, a lover. (I’ve never loved a Louie. Not in that way.)

So what do I say when Louie comes to me and says, “I have a problem. What do you think?”

I say, “I don’t give advice. I only share experiences.” Then I share my most relevant experience. I describe the situation I faced, what I did, what happened, and what I learned. And, by doing so, I have found that I am consistently more helpful to the Louies and Louises in my life.

Logo_eo_2This way of sharing experiences was trained into me by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (formerly Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization). They call this the Gestalt Protocol and (along with confidentiality) it is the overriding rule for communication during monthly meetings where eight or so entrepreneurs share experiences in a highly confidential forum. EO learned through many years of peer-to-peer sharing with thousands of entrepreneurs that — go figure! — self-directed, ambitious, successful entrepreneurs simply don’t like receiving advice.

In my experience — there I go again — this works with more than entrepreneurs. It works with kids, spouses, siblings, parents, students, clients, workmates, and other humans. On the other hand, whenever I break from this Gestalt Protocol and start offering direct advice, I meet immediate resistence and I am less effective as a teacher, strategic consultant, mentor, friend, and family member.

I’m not suggesting you try this. I’m just saying: in my experience, it works nicely.

For more on EO, see “For entrepreneurs” from May 2006.