When I was 18, I worked as a trainer for a small-town telemarketing company where two leaders blessed me with the rudest, most poorly delivered advice I’ve ever received.
It happened with the first leader the moment we met. After shaking my hand, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Your hand feels like a slimly, dead fish.”
The second leader accosted me for complaining about being heckled by a colleague in front of a room full of trainees. Rather than vindicate me, she said, “It sounds like you’re a baby who doesn’t know how to take charge.”
While painful to hear, both pieces of advice changed my life for the better: I immediately firmed up my handshake and mastered conflict negotiations.
Today, my philosophy on giving and receiving advice is grounded in those experiences, with the following caveats:
- Don’t be shy. It can be awkward, especially with a stranger, but some advice is worth the risk. You’d want to know if your fly was down or you had food in your teeth, right? Once the embarrassment subsides, you may even be rewarded with a thank-you.
- Use tact. Insults may spur attentiveness, but always be considerate. If a coworker is using all caps in an email say, “Readers see all-cap messages as an angry shout. Consider using colored or bold text, instead.”
- Keep it up. Even if a recipient’s initial response is negative, that doesn’t mean he or she won’t see its benefit to them later on. Show positive intent and remember that you could be the catalyst of a life-changing event.
Before you act …
Don’t dish it out unless you can take it. When someone offers you advice—whether it’s good or bad, warranted or not—give it serious thought. Who knows? Someday you may want to thank them.