6 Intuitive Ways to Discern Good Advice From Bad

UPDATED: April 18, 2020
PUBLISHED: October 13, 2017

Let’s face it. If you’re looking for advice, you’ll find no shortage of it—on how to build your business, negotiate a winning deal, build an ideal partnership or raise your kids.

A “brand expert” once advised me to always wear red since red is my brand color. Little over a month later, an “expert stylist” told me red was not my color. “You should wear more yellow,” she said. I’ve never taken to yellow. Another time, not long after I’d revamped my website to include more videos, another “online marketing expert” said I had too many.

I’m guessing you’ve also been given your share of conflicting advice. While some of it’s probably been helpful, I’m sure there’s some advice you later regretted following. Join the club. Learning to discern good advice from bad has come from following too much of the latter. So here’s my two cents of advice to you…

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1. Seek advice from multiple sources.

If everyone you know is telling you to do the same thing, it’s a sign that either a) it’s a wise thing to do, or b) your network is very “same-same.” To ensure it’s not the latter, make sure you reach out to a diverse pool of people for their opinion and guidance. When I moved to Dallas in 2001, I relied only on one realtor’s advice on where to live. It was a mistake. As I got to know the area better, I realized there were numerous areas I would have enjoyed living in more. (And no, I’m not going to tell you where it was… I still have friends there!)

2. Listen with an open mind.

Other people will have experience, insight and expertise that you don’t, so extract as much value from it as you can. There’s no point reinventing the wheel or making the same mistakes they did. However, as you listen, also consider how their situation, goals and personality differ from your own. A winning formula for one person doesn’t not always work the same for another.

3. Consider self-interest.

People always speak from some concern, and I like to know they’re speaking from a concern to serve my own best interests ahead of their own. So just consider what agenda or bias might be driving the advice they are giving. That doesn’t mean it’s not still good advice, but it might.

Related: 10 Pieces of Horrible Advice Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Ignore

4. Examine the shoulds.

When giving advice, people often tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. Just be mindful that the “shoulds” often reveal a lot about another person’s values, desires, rules and the broader norms of their group. So instead of using the word “should,” replace it with the word “could.” It removes the judgment that one course of action is superior to another (e.g., from home-schooling your kids to only wearing red). Rather it’s just different than (with different pros and cons), not necessarily any better than.

5. Tune into your intuition.

Once I feel I’ve got a broad enough base of advice, I then take some time to tune into my gut and ask myself, What feels right for me, right now? When it comes to a big decision in life, sometimes you have to stop all the analysis and just ask yourself what feels right for you. If a certain path feels right, then it probably is. Sure, do your research, talk to people and get advice. But in the end, go with your gut and trust your intuition—it rarely lies and can be an invaluable compass as you go through life.

6. Give yourself permission to make an imperfect decision.

I see too many people putting unnecessary pressure on themselves because they feel they have to make the perfect decision. The best advice I can give is to make the best decision you can with what you know right now, and if down the track you come to a point that you think you need to adjust course, then do so. Just don’t spent too much time trying to find the perfect person to give you the perfect advice. It could be a long, frustrating and futile wait.

Never give anyone else the carte blanche authority to decide what is best for you, because no one knows you (or appreciates your circumstances) better than you.

That’s all the advice I’ve got. Take what works. Ditch the rest!

Related: 10 Pieces of Career Advice for My 21-Year-Old Self

Best-selling author and mother of four, Margie Warrell is on a mission to embolden people to live and lead more bravely. Margie’s gained hard-won wisdom on building courage since her childhood in rural Australia. Her insights have also been shaped by her work with trailblazing leaders from Richard Branson to Bill Marriott and organizations from NASA to Google. Founder of Global Courage, host of the Live Brave podcast and advisory board member of Forbes Business School, Margie’s just released her fifth book You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself. She’d love to support you at www.margiewarrell.com.