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COMMITMENTS : Guidnce on Giving Counsel

July 11, 1994|PAULA LYNN PARKS

Before giving advice, find out what the person has tried or thought of in solving the problem.

Assume that the advisee has thought about the situation, tried something and has more ideas. Consider him the authority on his situation. "It's annoying to be offered problem-solving methods that have already been tried and discarded," said Gerald Goodman, UCLA psychology professor.

* Show empathy. Try to tune into the other person's experiences.

Psychologist Leslie Maxson said that in answering letters for an advice column in L.A. Parent magazine, she tries to put herself in the writer's shoes: "I try to imagine as well as I can what position the person is in, what their life situation is." Only then does she draw on her experiences and training to offer ideas. A good practice to use in person, experts say.

* Show respect. Don't be judgmental or self-righteous.

"The more respect you can use in giving advice, the more likely the person will be able to hear what you're saying," Maxson said. "If you add a twist of morality, there is a tendency for the listener to ignore it."

* Be sensitive to whether the person will be interested in your input.

Maybe he or she is just looking for a sympathetic ear. Check before plowing ahead with good advice. Judye Reynolds of Mission Hills said in the early years of her marriage that husband Larry charged in with advice "like a knight in shining armor" at the slightest mention of any problem. Having been reminded many times, Larry Reynolds now asks his wife: "Do you want my advice or is it a listening thing?"

* When asked, tell what worked for you.

One of most effective ways to make suggestions, Goodman said, is to share how you solved a similar problem. Through a story, you can offer a tested solution without being pushy.

When asked for advice, Robert Garner of Irvine prefers to share his experiences. As president and founder of a mortgage brokerage firm, Garner said he doesn't have the background to tell people how to solve their personal problems. With an employee or casual friend, Garner may even mask his personal story with an opener like "a friend of mine. . . ."

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