Whether you're an executive coach, a life coach, a mentor or someone with authority over others, at some point you're going to be interacting with other people, and some of these people are going to need your help in some fashion. Everyone I know has given advice of some kind in their life. Sometimes it's good advice, sometimes it's bad. Sometimes it's great but then the circumstances change, and other times it wasn't great because the coach or mentor didn't know all the real facts of what was going on.

The truth is that it's easy giving advice, but hard giving good advice. That's because most people go off the assumption that what they might do in a situation is always the way to go. That type of thing doesn't work for everyone. If you tell someone you'd have hit the person in the nose and you're 6'4" and 300 pounds, that advice (bad in any circumstance, by the way) wouldn't necessarily apply to someone 5'3" weighing less than 100 pounds. The consequences of the actions would probably be different; just saying...

Having said that, there are 3 techniques that work every time for those people who are interested in getting it right and providing the best service imaginable to those who need it. They're relatively simple, but powerful; let's take a look.

1. Listening. This is more powerful than all the others combined. It's also the hardest, even though I said all 3 techniques were relatively simple. This one is hard because:

  • People don't always tell you the entire story
  • You're only hearing one side of the story
  • You have to listen to more than just what's being said
  • You have to remain dispassionate while listening to the story
  • You might not agree with the person telling you their story
  • If it's a long story you might forget salient points along the way

So many people often want to try to give advice to a person's problem without listening to the entire story. True, sometimes people tend to ramble, and a true practitioner of listening knows how to encourage a person to stay on point and only to focus on what the real issue is instead of all the extraneous stuff that has nothing to do with what's going on.

2. Give options. Even when something seems cut and dry, good coaches always see at least 3 options in every circumstance, and they'll point them all out. The reason for this is that one never wants to tell someone else what to do, have it go wrong, and destroy whatever the relationship might have been. Giving options, and one's opinion on what could happen from each option, puts the onus of what to do back on the person asking for advice. Often adults already know what they should do, though it might counter with what they want to do, and pointing out all the options helps clarify what might be the best thing to do.

3. Tell the truth. This one sounds scary to many people, but if you're going to do anyone a true service you have to be willing to tell the truth, even if it might hurt. I have told people they were wrong, although I've couched it in different language; there's no reason to always have to be blunt unless someone really needs a wake-up call. If you offer truth with ways to help and encouragement, no one will see you as being mean, but as being helpful. It takes a lot of mental power to separate oneself from the personal mind to the analytical mind sometimes, but if you really care, you'll do it.