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The Invisible Culture of Advice

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

It is human to want to give advice to a colleague, friend, or loved one when they have a problem, but does it really help? For years journalists, therapists, and corporate coaches have been trained to stay neutral. Neutrality allows for the fact that we don’t know what a person will do with our advice, so why do so many of us still give it when unsolicited?

The word advice provides an opportunity for cultural growth since it is still not sufficient enough to serve our social needs. How many times have you received advice that you didn’t want to take? How many times have you been criticized for not doing things the way someone else thinks you should? How many times have all of us been on the giving and receiving end of it?

I propose we add a new word to the English language - “advuce”. It came to me during the Spring of 2021 when I went to a health institute to recover from a medical challenge (I’m fine, thanks to doctors, family, and friends). The struggle made me stronger, but while at the institute I allowed myself to collapse.

The other attendees could see that I was navigating something, so many of them gave me advice like: “forget about work”, “breathe”, “appreciate what you have”, “don’t think about it”, “do yoga”, “eat live foods”, “don’t eat sugar”, “do more…do less”, “eat more…eat less”. It seemed that each day I had a flood of advice, but much of it didn't apply to my circumstance.

As coaching and trainers we are taught that advice is dangerous because it has too much of a risk of being about the person giving it than the person receiving it. Also, according to Linguistic-Relativity, “the structure of a language affects a speaker’s worldview or cognition”. Therefore, I propose taking the “I” out of advice and changing it to a “U”, the word itself becomes an opportunity for us to be more aware of one another’s needs.

Humans are naturally ethnocentric, as are their recommendations. We have the power to impact people choices by adding the new word: advice. Just by adding a new word to a language, we have affected the culture and our consciousness about one another.

Advice is often harmful, but advuce expands a culture’s potential to bridge the natural divides that often lead to conflict or misunderstanding.

I am often asked for a list of “dos and don’ts”. The first thing I put on a list of “dos and don’ts” is don’t use them. There is no magic list to solve the dynamic challenges of working across cultures. It requires a lot of listening, confirming and presence.

Advice is inherently saying, “you aren’t as capable as I am of figuring this out.”

That is why coaching as a Global Leadership Skill is an essential tool in the toolbox. When leading across cultures, there is constant discovery. Advice blocks effective cross-cultural interaction. AdvUce imposes a pause and provides an opportunity for reflection and to avoid the classic challenge of knowing whether or not what we are saying is in service of our selves or the other.

So the next time someone approaches you for some help with a problem, maybe the decision isn’t what advice to give, but whether or not to give it at all.

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