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December 5, 2018

The Advice Rut (And the Freedom of Not-Knowing)

Have you ever fallen into the “Yes, but . . .” rut? (I have many, many times).

It starts like this: your colleague or friend says, “I’ve got this problem. I’d like your advice.”
You nod. They explain the situation. You ask a few more questions and then give them your best advice. You’re feeling good . . . at first. But, as you continue talking, you notice something.

Their eyes glaze over and they shake their head.
“Yes,” they say, “But . . .”
As they explain carefully why your suggestion won’t work. You try again.
“Yes,” they respond, “But . . .”
It’s frustrating. They asked for help. But no matter what advice you offer – they respond with “Yes, but . . .”
Here’s why . . .

They don’t really want your advice.
I know they asked. But, notice what happens when you give the advice. They resist it. They deny it. They push back. The more you try to explain, the more they “Yes, but . . .” It may be hard to face – but clearly they don’t want your advice. Even though you love giving it.

You want to be helpful.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this impulse. In fact, the impulse to serve, to support, and to help others grow – is beautiful.
Just notice where acting on this impulse takes you. Because when it takes you into a “Yes, but . . .” rut – something simply isn’t working. It turns the conversation into a vicious cycle of:

Your advice.
Their “Yes, but . . .”
Your advice.
Their “Yes, but . . .”

You end up mired in emotional mud.
What began as a supportive conversation turns into a power struggle. Nobody enjoys it. It sours your relationship – at least in the moment. You end up with bad feelings and no real change.

How do you get out of the “Yes, but . . .” rut?
First of all realize you’re in the rut. And that you’re responsible for getting yourself out. Not them. You.
Even if they asked for help, it’s not their fault you’re in the rut. Because, they didn’t get you in the rut. You did.

And it’s up to you to get yourself out.
There are three mind-set shifts that break you out of the “Yes, but . . .” rut.

Mindset shift #1: Realize they don’t want your help
Yes, I know they asked for your help and advice. But, it doesn’t matter. Asking for help or advice is often just a habitual (and culturally sanctioned) way to open up a conversation.
It’s not a real request. It’s a red herring. A dead end. They’re not interested in your advice. And – this is important – they don’t want you to act as if you know.

Mindset shift #2: Realize you don’t know.
You don’t know what they should do. You may have ideas. You may think your ideas are wonderful. But, that’s just a form of self-hypnosis. In fact, the more compelled you are to offer your advice and the more convinced you are of the efficacy of your ideas . . . the deeper your state of self-hypnosis. (And the deeper you’re going to dig yourself into the “Yes, but . . .” rut.)
You really don’t know what they need to do. This mindset shift can be difficult to swallow. Particularly, if you’ve made a career and identity out of being helpful and giving advice. Shaking loose of your helpful/insightful identity is an incredibly powerful and liberating move.

Mindset shift #3: See them as fully capable.
Instead of relating to them as needy, see them as strong. Rather than hold them as in need, experience them as fully equipped to handle the situation, and take action.
Look past their furrowed brow and pleading eyes. Cut through their story of being victimized or lost. Look past the facades and see them as fully capable of turning the situation around.

After shifting your mindset – ask questions instead of giving advice.
Don’t ask questions that are designed to give you more information about the problem. Don’t dig into analyzing the situation. Those kinds of questions will lead you back into giving advice. Asking information gathering questions will deposit you into the “Yes, but . . .” rut.

Ask about their goals and aspirations.

Ask them:

  • “What is it you want to accomplish?”
  • “What matters most to you?”
  • “What is the outcome you’d really like to create?”

These kinds of questions put attention on what they want to realize & create (not their complaint or their story). These questions presuppose that they’re creative and able to make something positive happen.
Get really interested and curious about what they want to create. Explore it. Learn more about it. Learn more about why it matters to them.

Notice if they actually answer these creative-focused questions or if they revert to a litany of complaints.
Not everyone will answer these questions the first time. They may try to lure you back into the “Yes, but . . .” rut.
It’s not even conscious on their part. It’s just a habit and a comfort zone. It’s more comfortable to be stuck than to move forward.
They may be so familiar with the “Yes, but . . .” rut that they will ignore those questions and launch back into their complaint. Be alert. Don’t take the bait.

After all, giving advice is quite seductive.
It lures you in. But, there’s a simple way to prevent yourself from falling completely into the “Yes, but . . .” rut. All you need to do is be on the lookout for those two little words “Yes, but . . .”
Because those two words are your reminders. When you hear them – stop. Recognize that you’re on the edge of the “Yes, but . . .” rut again.
Take a step back.

Readjust your mindset.

Recognizing:

  1. They don’t want your advice.
  2. You don’t really know what they need/should do etc.
  3. They are fully capable.

And then, with a sense of real curiosity ask questions of that fully capable person. Get interested in what they really want to create.
With a little practice, you’ll soon enjoy the freedom that comes from staying out of the “Yes, but . . .” rut.

Questions for reflection & action:

1) Who frequently lures you into the “Yes, but . . .” rut?

2) Which of the three mindset shifts is hardest for you to make regarding this person ?

  • They don’t want your advice.
  • You don’t really know.
  • And they are fully capable.

3) How would you act with them, what would you say to them, if you made this shift?

4) How will making this shift benefit you, them, others?

5) Rinse and repeat until you’re out of the “Yes, but . . .” rut.

Love & Shanti,
E & D

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