The Advice Trap | Michael Bungay Stanier

Summary of: The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever
By: Michael Bungay Stanier


Are you plagued by the compulsion to give advice whenever someone tells you about a problem they’re facing? In ‘The Advice Trap,’ Michael Bungay Stanier reveals the detrimental nature of this tendency and offers an encouraging critique on how to transform your approach. This summary explores the concept of the ‘Advice Monster,’ its three personas, and why unwanted advice hinders real problem-solving. Delve deeper into the power of asking open-ended questions, managing stress, and fostering curiosity as essential components of effective leadership and personal growth.

The Problem with Giving Unsolicited Advice

Giving unwanted advice gets in the way of finding real solutions.

Do you often feel the urge to provide advice when someone is talking to you about their problems? While it may seem like you’re helping, the truth is that giving unsolicited advice is usually counter-productive. It often happens when someone tells us about their problems, and we’re so eager to provide solutions that we fail to listen to what they’re saying. This can lead to giving advice that doesn’t address the real concerns.

Even if we get the solution right, most of us offer mediocre advice without deeply listening to the necessary information. Rushing for a quick fix, we hold on to the first idea we have instead of looking for the best solution. This approach affects our well-being, as it’s exhausting to help solve the world’s problems and do everyone’s job all the time.

Being on the receiving end of unsolicited advice can feel disrespectful, as it implies that people do not trust our abilities to solve the problem ourselves. Those who give too much advice are limiting innovation and exhausting themselves. They are their own worst enemies.

The key takeaway here is that giving unwanted advice gets in the way of finding real solutions. It’s time to face and break the cycle of our inner Advice Monsters. Instead, try to listen actively and ask questions to better understand the problem before providing any advice. It’s important to trust people’s capabilities to solve their own problems and encourage them to find their own solutions.

Taming Your Advice Monsters

We all have an internal Advice Monster that developed to help us deal with stressful situations. These monsters, which come in three personas – Tell-It, Save-It, and Control-It – can limit our lives by preventing us from being open to other perspectives and piling undue responsibility on us. While we can’t get rid of these monsters, we can tame them. The first step is getting to know our Advice Monsters better.

Taming Your Advice Monster

Our advice-giving reflexes can be triggered by stressful situations and identifying personal triggers can help break this cycle. Once identified, we can examine the payoffs and costs of compulsive advice-giving and work on building a version of ourselves that doesn’t give advice as a reflex.

Just like puppies that start excitedly yapping at the sound of passing cars, our Advice Monsters tend to get louder and noisier in certain situations. This book explores how to tame that inner monster by identifying personal triggers. For one of the authors, spending time with his brother triggers his Control-It persona. The key takeaway is that stressful situations can trigger our Advice Monsters.

The triggers for advice-giving reflexes are unique to each person. Some may be triggered by being around strangers, while others might feel compelled to give advice at work. The next step is to examine our behavior in these situations. We need to be honest with ourselves and look for specific examples of when our Advice Monsters come out. This exercise can be difficult, but it’s essential to break the advice-giving cycle.

The behavior of compulsive advice-giving provides a small reward, but it comes at a cost. We may feel helpful or smart when we give advice, but this constant behavior can negatively affect our relationships and potential to lead. To truly change and grow, we must let go of immediate gratification and work on building a version of ourselves that doesn’t give advice as a reflex. Imagine the possibilities when we can be with people without any agenda!

The Art of Asking Questions

The book emphasizes the importance of asking great questions instead of proposing solutions. It suggests keeping questions short and simple and genuinely open-ended. Additionally, it advises on asking follow-up questions like “What else?” and “What’s the real challenge for you here?” to dig deeper. Lastly, by asking great questions, a leader can nurture their curiosity, listen carefully, and build a sense of autonomy and purpose in the people around them.

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