Are You Afraid To Ask For Advice?

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I was dealing with a business issue a number of years ago and was really struggling with how to handle it.  It started out small but rapidly became really complex and gnarly.  It also started out involving only a couple of people and then grew into many people being involved with the potential, depending on how I handled it, to mess up a number of valuable relationships.  I was really lost as to what was the best thing to do.

I wanted to go to my boss and seek his advice, but I was afraid of appearing unable to handle the situation or incapable.  I procrastinated for a couple of days, but this thing was getting really messy really quick.  I couldn’t wait any longer and set up a meeting to get my boss’s input and sought his advice between the actions I was considering taking.

Going to my manager turned out to be a very valuable lesson for my career.  He was concerned about the problem but not concerned about me for having come to him for his thoughts.

You see, like me, most people find it difficult to ask for any kind of advice because they feel that it weakens their image.

Well, here’s the good news.  A comprehensive Harvard & Wharton study done a couple of years ago concluded that yes, many individuals are reluctant to seek advice from others for fear of appearing incompetent.  However, their study determined that this fear is totally misplaced!  They found that people actually perceive those who seek advice as more competent than those who do not.

Here’s why:

*Your Seeking Advice Not “Help” – Seeking “help” implies you want the other person to pitch in and do some of the work.

*With Advice-Seeking You Stay In Control – With advice seeking you’re trying to solicit information for a course of action.  You yourself still keep decision-making process and ownership of the action ultimately taken.  On the other hand, seeking “help” can actually get the other person involved and you may in fact then lose control of your situation.

*Seeking Advice Flatters The Other Person – It’s an ego stroke for the person you’re going to advice for.  They feel good that you think enough of them to value their input.

*You Look Smarter, Not Weaker
When seeking advice from other people, they actually perceive you to be smarter.  They see you as exploring all the angles before deciding an action to take.

Here’s the only couple of cautions for seeking advice:

*You look weak only when you seek advice without having thought through viable alternatives yourself.  Come to the person you’re seeking input from with the possible actions you’ve conceived so far.  Otherwise you will sound as though you are drowning in confusion.  You always look strong if you’re theorizing ideas.

*Prepare Up Front – Most people don’t mind providing you with advice.  Their time is valuable though.  You have an obligation to prepare ahead of time and be concise.

So here’s the net, net.  Most of us are anxious about asking for advice, especially from bosses or other manager above us.  We don’t to look inept.  Extensive research say just the opposite.  Done right, seeking advice actually paints a better impression of you.

Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple, was spot on when he said, “Most people never ask for advice and that’s what separates the people that do big thing from those who just dream about them.

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