A lot of our daily conversations involve giving and getting advice: What do you think? If you ask me … I'm of the opinion that … But not all the advice we receive is helpful or even worthwhile.
The task, then, is to figure out whether the advice is sound, which is mostly a matter of judging whether the adviser is qualified.
Instead of spinning your wheels, ask yourself five simple questions:
1. Where is it coming from?
What do the advisers have in terms of credentials and background? What's their perspective, their bias, their connection? The more you know about the source, the better you can evaluate the advice.
2. Does this person have an ulterior motive?
There's an old phrase in Latin: Cui bono? Translation: For whose good? It doesn't mean to treat potential advisers mistrustfully or with suspicion, but to think through their likely motives to make sure they're aligned with your own.
3. Does this person have experience?
No matter how much a person may know in theory, there's a depth of understanding that comes from first-hand experience that nothing else can bring. Broad experience brings a wide perspective, and experience that's close to your own brings familiarity with the issues at hand.
4. Does this person listen?
We all know a few people who like to hear themselves pontificate with advice that tends to be long-winded and not always appropriate to the situation at hand. Is the adviser taking the time to hear and understand your specific situation?
5. Does the person sound like a cliché?
Sometimes people give you advice and it starts to sound like a bunch of clichés: Time will tell … Haste makes waste … Don't put all your eggs into one basket … Clichés have their place--that's why they're clichés, after all--but they can be a red flag for shallow thinking and a lack of perceptiveness.
So the next time you seek advice, ask yourself these questions before deciding how much of it to take to heart. And have faith in your own experience and instinct, too. Check in with yourself and consult others you trust when evaluating.