How Not To Nag
Think about the people in your life that could benefit from your advice. Picture them as they are now, then morph that image in your mind as they follow your advice and lead a better life with better outcomes as a result. You’ve made some mistakes. You’ve learned some lessons. Wouldn’t it be great if the people in your life could benefit from your experience without having to make those same mistakes themselves? Now, think about those occasions when you’ve tried to give people advice. Maybe it was big advice: “Leave him alone, he’ll never change.” Maybe it was less big advice: “You shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes.” How did the people on the receiving end of your advice react to it? How do you react when people try to give you advice?
You might be the exception because your friends, family and society in general consider you to be as wise as the love-child of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Oprah Winfrey so that every pearl of wisdom that drops from your silver tongue is snapped up with enthusiasm and instantly and successfully applied. If so, great! Go read another blog. But you would be very much in the minority. The rest of us can perhaps be comforted that 70% of advice is first of all received with defensiveness – our well-meaning advice is initially perceived as a threat or challenge. It’s a prehistoric, instinctive and pre-rational response to change. It’s not personal. It’s not about you. But it doesn‘t feel like that, does it? Another 20% is received with indifference. We may well be thanked for our advice but it’s not seen as relevant or important to them right now. The remaining 10% is received actively. That’s good news until you find out that only 3% is applied.
Ouch. We give advice to 100 people and a mere 3 people take it on board and apply it. Or we give advice to the same person 100 times… Nope! That’s even less effective. Well before you get to 100, you have passed over into the nag zone.
‘The Guide’ was written for young adults to read – those a few years either side of leaving home. Our research showed that there was already an abundance of advice for those starting out but that it wasn’t being well absorbed and applied. There were plenty of statistics indicating young people needed to change their behaviour yet our advice-giving processes either weren’t hitting the mark or weren’t sticking. We’re all former young people ourselves. We know what WE were like. There’s a classic essay lamenting the slack attitudes of “young people today.” It bemoans their laziness and their disrespect. You may have heard of its author – Socrates. He wrote it a few thousand years ago. So, the frustration of advice not taken is not new.
Our research and that of our publisher did show that there was a readership for a broad advice resource but that, above all else, it must not be seen as, and I quote, “preachy.” Once published, and in accordance with the law of unintended consequences, it didn’t go exactly as planned. The vast majority of sales are to people who on-gift the book. OK, we thought, mum or granddad buy the book for their son or granddaughter for a graduation or flatwarming present. That was partly true but it seemed that many were being on-gifted to, for want of a better term, non-young people. We ran a promotion on a classic rock radio station’s breakfast show scheduled for a half hour. It went into a second day with callers wanting to win a copy not for their kids but for their partners!
Consequently, I’m now in a period of revisiting the entire premise of the book for my next book. I’m researching the actual advice-giving process itself. How can we extend our influence in a subtle and more effective way? There’s clearly a demand. Maybe it’s the young people in our lives and we care about them and we want what’s best, the opportunities we never had, for them not to make the same mistakes, yadda yadda yadda. It could just as easily be our parents, siblings, lovers, bosses, customers, staff, etc. My blogs moving forward will provide you with tools and techniques for you to use to extend your influence and give advice without it even being noticed.
A survey showed that 80% of drivers consider themselves to be above average. Clearly we are better at driving than we are at maths. This predisposition that we humans have to misjudging our own abilities is a major reason why people aren’t great at receiving or processing advice.