Advice Giving is Not Coaching

I recently slipped into one of my most ingrained bad habits, advice giving. Worse, it was unsolicited advice giving. The victim of my advice thought I was trying to coach him. Thankfully he was willing to take the risk of being honest with me and sharing that he did not appreciate my “coaching”. I was able to hear what he said, apologize and we moved on with the conversation. But I have continued to think about that conversation, hence this blog was born.

Coaching is never giving advice. It is a shared conversation where two people explore possibilities together. The coach’s job is to notice where a client might be setting up blocks for himself, such as a limiting belief that he is not good enough at something. The coach may paint a picture of a possible future that the client has not yet seen for himself, opening a new door for the client. Sometimes the coach’s job is to just be fully present with her client and acknowledging his pain or difficulty. But in coaching, the client carries all the power. He makes all the decisions. He chooses his actions. He chooses his path but has invited the coach along to explore possibilities with him.

Unsolicited advice giving takes the power away from the recipient. But even more insidious, it is a form a judgment. By giving advice, the advisor is implying that the recipient is currently not doing the right thing. She has the answers to “fix” the recipient’s problem. With her smartness and life experiences, she is going to help the person by telling him what to do. And he should be grateful to receive her amazing and sage advice.

It is easy for me to fall into this trap of believing I am being helpful when I give advice, when in fact I am acting in a way that disempowers and judges the other person. As a coach, I am continually fighting my advice giving habit. I have a goal to fully empower my clients through a thoughtful partnership. I will continue to strive towards this goal and one key step is to ditch the advice giving.