Do you really want feedback?

September 27, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

How many times have your friends said dude I really want your opinion? Well minus the “dude” part maybe a million times I would say.

You sit and listen for a good 30 minutes. You nod your head, you understand what your friend is saying and then finally they ask for your advice on the questions they proposed.

“billy bob i really think you should do blah…”

Let me tell you something. They don’t care what you are saying or what advice you can give them.

I have realized this lately when people ask for my opinion. Not that mine is a good one but I suggest certain things to people and finally realized regardless what I say people are going to do what they want to do.

They only ask for your advice to confirm what they want to do. This is not true all the time but I have a new easy solution:

Ask people what they want to do. Tell them to do that. Simple huh:)

Or be smart and don’t say anything;) Am I totally wrong on this?

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30 responses to “Do you really want feedback?

  1. Warren Reply

    If you don’t affirm, you are being “mean.” If you do affirm you are a “yes man.” The real question is what do you value more congeniality or honesty. I value honesty. The day Noah clams up into a “yes man” is a sad day in a little place called Silicon Valley.

    Who are you kiddin’ man?

  2. Robert Franklin Reply

    Give it to them straight, if the are wise they will listen and consider making modifications to improve their idea. If not they are either brilliant or deluded. Trouble is it is difficult to know which one.

  3. Charles Hudson Reply

    I think this is how most relationships start out – good advice =advice that confirms what the person wanted to hear. bad advice = advice that confirms what they want to hear but that ends up not working out. and then there’s useless advice, which is advice that is ignored.

    over time, i think you can become more honest with people and establish a precedent for telling them the truth when they come for advice. but that takes time and confidence that the person will be receptive.

  4. Noah Kagan Reply

    Good call Charles.

    I think one of the most interesting questions I was thinking about recently is with close friends. Is it better to let them know something, say you don’t like the person they are dating and piss off your friend or just let them learn for themselves?

  5. Daniel Elmore Reply

    I had this same thought some time ago and realized that I was only weary of feedback because I felt my input was so valuable that everyone should take heed, but as you say, most don’t. So, *in my case*, it was a problem with me, thinking to highly of myself.

    Now that I’ve realized that about me, I don’t see any reason to short circuit the process.

    Again, I stress the “in my case” πŸ™‚

  6. Shivani Reply

    huh – this sounds way too familiar πŸ™‚

    I tell people what I think – honestly – almost all the time, it creates problems sometimes, but on the whole, I haven’t lost any friends over it.

    Advice is just that – advice – it’s a recommendation. It’s not the god sent answer. I ask for advice when I want a different perspective or when I’m trying to sort out something that doesn’t make much sense in my head.

    Everybody has decisions to make and they sift through people’s recommendations, and their own realizations to make those decisions.

    I think the person that takes their friend’s advice all the time is an idiot because an outsider can only provide you with a different perspective, they can’t give you THE answer, only you can do that.

  7. Shivani Reply

    oh and for the dating question with close friends. i always look at the seriousness of the relationship before i say anything. if it’s not too serious and the guy/girl seems just all wrong, i’ll say something. if it’s really serious, i’ll make sure my friend is happy and support their decision.

    my best friend got engaged about 6 months after she met a guy, and she was moving to another country for him. he seemed like an ok guy, but it seemed really fast. i asked her if she was sure about it, and she said yes. So, i supported her decision. it’s been about 2 years, now, and I just got back from visiting her – she’s the happiest person i know πŸ™‚

  8. Jason D- Reply

    I’ve started giving people totally contrary advice because people tend to do the exact opposite of what you tell them. I think it’s partially because people don’t like to be beholden to other people and following someone’s advice puts you in the “I told you so!” zone. You really can’t tell people what to do even if they flat out ask you for it point blank. So lie. Steer them away from what they know they should do and see how that works for ya. I’m getting better results because people are doing things that are inherently better for them and they’re not coming to me for advice anymore since if they did what I told them to do it would have been really bad. So give bad advice when asked and avoid the whole quagmire altogether.

  9. Britt Reply

    Advice junkies are an interesting breed. My experiences leads me to believe they are more interested in being thought of as “wise” for seeking your advice than actually doing something with the advice.

    I think the same theory holds true for people who say they want to change something and then don’t. People tend to do the things they do because it works for them, they’re getting something (who knows what) out of it.

  10. Warren Reply

    I’ve always been honest with my friends, and so far I’ve only lost one friend due to honest advice. And after ignoring that advice, bad things happened and my friend apologized for her harsh reaction.

    With that said, I do think there are ways to be honest while maintaining sensitivity. This level of sensitivity is very dependent upon the topic at hand and your friend’s emotional state.

  11. joe Reply

    Noah, we’ve nearly doubled to about 4M pageviews now since the last time we talked to you. Lots of those little changes add up. And we’re still not done with your list… slowly but surely πŸ™‚

  12. karen Reply

    I agree with Shivani (go figure!)…advice is a recommendation. I’m never offended if someone doesn’t take my advice. They’re the one who has to make the decision and live with it.

    And I don’t give BS answers to people, whether I’ve known them for 2 months or 10 years. Why do it? What benefit do I get from giving bad advice just to make someone feel better? What benefit do they get by getting a BS answer? I’d rather help them see the other side of a situation and help problem solve in a creative way.

    As for telling friends you don’t care for the person they’re dating…that’s a tough one. I had to tell my best friend that after dating a guy for 2.5 years, if she came to me to tell me she was engaged, I would not be happy at all. I’d still love her, but would be disappointed. He was a jerk and treated her like sh*t and I couldn’t stand to see her in a relationship like that forever. She was blind to it all and stuck with him a while longer. Thankfully, she broke it all off, met a new guy (whom I adore!) and is now engaged. Funny thing…the ex started dating one of her ‘friends’ that he always badmouthed, got her prego and is now married to her. Seriously…what an f’n scumbag. I don’t hate many people, but this guy tops my list.

    When it comes to relationship advice, I always want to see the person happy…whether that means advising them to stick it out or to run the other way. Tell it like it is…but in the nicest way possible.

    The doctor is in! πŸ˜‰

  13. karen Reply

    I’m still thinking about this post this morning and want to add that there is one person who tells it to me like it is and can tell when I’m lying about how I’m doing (I’m fine…life’s great!) just by looking at me.

    He’s the one I go to first when I need real advice, because I know he’s not going to tell me what I want to hear, but what I need to hear. And that’s the most valuable advice someone can ever give.

    So, Noah, I have to advise I think you’re totally wrong on this…but you’re learning.

  14. Derek Scruggs Reply

    Go meta on them. First ask “why are you asking my advice?” Then ask, “what’s the likelihood you will follow my advice, and what will influence your decision?”

    Frequently the question is not the real question. It’s the reason behind the question that matters. This is especially true in sales.

    Also, the way you give advice can make a difference. Saying “you should do X” is usually less effective than asking “have you thought about doing X,” especially with men.

  15. Bruce Reply

    I don’t entirely agree Noah.
    I think it really depends how you explain what you think. Depending on the person, and your relationship, I think there are better or worse ways to argument to have them reconsider their position.
    Also, I think it’s important that your goal is not to change their mind, but to have them reconsider their position. There’s a big difference between the two.

  16. Chris Keller Reply

    Noah, Marc Anderseen seems to agree with you about giving advice when people ask for it:

    “In real life — as opposed to blogging — one of my least favorite things to do is give career planning advice. Most people who say they want career planning advice aren’t actually looking for advice — they just want validation of the path they have already chosen. Because of that, giving someone career planning advice is one of the surest ways to end up feeling like an a******.”

    http://blog.pmarca.com/2007/09/the-pmarca-guid.html

  17. Jason H. Reply

    Yes, I Do!

    For every person who ignore your feedbacks, there are probably 3X more people who really take your feedbacks seriously and appreciate them. So, plz donÒ€ℒt stop giving out your feedbacks πŸ™‚

    I think as long as you can be honest about your feedbacks, that’s really all that matters. And, it’s never your fault that someone who doesn’t listen to your feedbacks, it’s their loss…

    On the other hand, how often do you take someone elseÒ€ℒs feedbacks and actually implement them?

  18. Dan Merfeld Reply

    There’s an important distinction that needs to be made here. Because some people seek advice when in actuality they really just want someone to talk to about the problems in their lives. The act of saying something out loud to another human, makes them feel better. Although they may have asked for advice (literally) it’s not at all what they want.

    I always start my advice with the question “do feel better getting that off your chest? Do you want my advice?” in which case, if the answer is yes, I proceed with caution.

    Still, when providing advice, you have to present (at least the illusion of) a fair and balanced point of view. If you’re talking about relationships, keep the other person out of your advice if possible. The worst thing you can do is position yourself as disliking the person your best friend is dating. What will happen is your friend will assume all future advice on the topic to be unbalanced and bias. That will drive them away from you – only to return to the friendship if/when the relationship sours. In which case they’ll come to you with all the complaints you tried to illustrate in the first place.

    Instead focus on the advice seeker, focus on how he/she deserves to be treated with respect. Remove references to other people. It’s naturally common to seek out advice on how to deal with the other people in our lives. When the solution almost always lies within the advice seeker.

    If your friend is persistently drawing the conversation back to the other person, it might be appropriate to cut the person off and inform them that they cannot control the actions of other people, they can only control their own actions.

    It’s also probably worth mentioning that although a lot of people may not take your advice, they probably find value in it’s delivery. You were there, offering words of wisdom in a time of need. That’s a great thing to do, and one of the most important roles of a true friend. Just because they didn’t follow your advice, doesn’t mean it wasn’t considered.

    Remember people hold things back, they might not share 100% of the story. So then the advice you gave might not apply as much as you might think. Follow up your advice with a compliment. Tell them you trust them to make a good decision, the right decision and you’ll support them no matter what that decision is. Unconditional advice, is the only followed advice.

  19. jen_chan, writer SureFireWealth.com Reply

    Sometimes, I think that there are really no wrong decisions. Decisions are just decisions. There are times when people know what to do but just need someone else to help them decide to actually go through with it. However, when a friend comes to me for advice, I usually listen for as long as I can and offer simple and short solutions or advices.

  20. Amy Romero Reply

    when you want your friends opinion…make sure its a true friend that can handle and understand what you are going through.and if it is just the first time you are asking this person for advice that to not throw so much at them at this point and if you really think they understand ask them again for help.

  21. Obi Reply

    Yes, you’re totally wrong on this.

    If people ask for your opinion, give it to ’em.

    Give it to ’em cold. Give it to ’em hard. And give it to ’em with as much Radical Honesty as you can possibly muster.

    This is how to create true, authentic relationships. I love it, it’s like a little bit of risk-taking every time.

    If you’d like to learn more about ‘Radical Honesty’ – check out this awesome article. Seriously, this concept has changed my life.

    http://www.esquire.com/features/honesty0707