In our everyday lives, we hardly ever have difficulty finding some who wants to offer advice, whether it be on how to conduct business, how to address a problem or how to improve yourself. There is always someone eager and willing to give their opinion. It’s everywhere in the sporting industry and especially in the media. A lot of times we’re not even seeking the advice but it’s coming to us from all ends. Many of us including myself have no problem offering our opinion or advice on many topics. Most times we prefer to advise on something we may know about, especially if it’s in our field but there are times when persons believe they ought to offer their opinion on a topic they have absolutely no experience or knowledge.
In a lot of instances, I do want to know what others think just to get a broader perspective before I narrow my thoughts down. Athletes actively solicit advice from coaches, teammates, advisors and even the average fan. This may vary when it comes to movement and training patterns, strategies and other aspects of their training or competing experience.
It is important when soliciting or offering opinions to consider a couple of guiding principles to make sure the advice you are giving and or dispensing is appropriate, helpful, and motivated by the right things or by what, in your opinion, are the right things. This is where it can become tricky. How do you actually know it’s the right thing. Most times we can only be guided by previous experiences, track records or the pedigree of the person offering the advice.
Let’s say someone approaches you for advice on a problem they want to have resolved or just to get something off their chest. It may be necessary to avoid these steps. Keep away the “don’ts” when responding to their concerns, particularly when they are an athlete. In my capacity as a media manager, athletes, particularly footballers tend to approach me on different things when they need advice or an opinion. Athletes tend to approach persons within a team staff on a lot of different topics.
Don’t rush to provide an example from your own experience when trying to get a message across. . “War stories” or other experiences of success or struggles hold great meaning to you, but they may lead the player to think, “What does this have to do with me?”
If you recount an experience from your past, preface it by saying, “This worked well for me and maybe it will work for you as well.”
It is not advisable to say, “I know exactly how you feel.” This can come off as a bit presumptuous. Instead say, “That sounds like a tough situation. Maybe I can offer some advice that will be helpful.” The truth is unless we have actually suffered career-threatening injuries, I, the team manager or even the physio will never know what Kevin Molino is experiencing currently after suffering a third ACL injury. So we cannot attempt to console him by saying “I know what you’re going through Kevin.”
Research has shown that persons sometimes offer advice to boost their own confidence and sense of power. These studies found that individuals who want the upper hand do in fact tend to be more loose-lipped about offering guidance. As summarized by Dr Art Markman for Psychology Today, a set of four studies led by Michael Schaerer looked at how giving advice influences a person's sense of power. The researchers gave participants a chance to give advice online. They then told the participants that the person who got their message either did or did not read the advice. This study found that giving advice increased a sense of power for the participants, especially for those who were interested in gaining more power. When the participants thought others hadn't taken their advice, their sense of power went down rather than up.
As Markman interprets, taken together, these studies indicate that, even if you're not actively out to take the reins over others, giving advice can make you feel like you have some sway, which helps you feel more powerful. And if the idea of more power makes you take a little extra bounce in your step, you're probably more likely to look for opportunities to tell others what to do.
Perhaps instead of offering advice to make yourself feel better, it may be wise to take a look at it from the other side. If you are feeling more powerful because you're giving out advice like candy, what do you suppose the other person is feeling? They might recognize they need to learn or that what you say makes good sense, but you're still forcing them to see themselves as lower than you. Nobody likes to feel less than or incompetent for very long. Balance your advice with positive judgments or observations--that is, by giving them a sense of their own potential. Be careful that your advice simply isn't criticism in disguise. If you want to give unsolicited advice, politely ask permission.
And if you're on the receiving end of all the advice? Remind yourself that, for whatever reason, your speaker feels powerless. Let that knowledge calm the frustration you might feel at their "guidance", and whenever you can, find ways to encourage them.
"It takes a great man to give sound advice tactfully, but a greater to accept it graciously." J. C. Macaulay
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He was a FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. The views expressed are solely his and not a representation of any organisation. firstname.lastname@example.org