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Giving Advice...

I'll preface by saying that I'm usually the one who
needs the advice :-D I don't know how many times Sue
has had to repeat some bit of horse management advice
that A> I knew (in my head), B> makes perfect sense,
and C> somehow seems very difficult to actually do!

On the other hand, being a "computer guy", I have to
know how to give advice to people and not make them
feel silly. It's particularly difficult when the
person is a computer hobbyist with enough knowledge
and experience to get themselves into trouble. Kind of
like the people whom haven't adjusted their halters,
these are the folks who did something that worked 9
times, but the tenth time it failed. Miserably. Now,
they're mad, and here I come to help them.

I've used the "have you heard..." and "a lotta
folks.." ideas, and they work well. But for giving
advice to someone who may not want it, (usually
stubborn pride, and often as not self directed anger),
I use the following approach, particulary when I know
I'll be dealing with these folks again.

I start out by saying, "May I make a suggestion?" in a
calm, soft voice. I've noticed that shouting, "You
freaking MORON!!" doesn't quite work. but a calm, soft
voice gets their attention, and suggestions are
somehow less threatening that advice. If they say,
"No," then you have the option of not pursuing it,
with no loss of face. Try again later when they're
more receptive. 

The next thing I do is complement them on something
they're doing right. "You do a great job of handling
Fluffy at the wash rack", or something. Everyone has
something they do right, don't they? Oviously, if you
already have an adversarial relationship, this ain't
gonna work. Try making friends before you offer
enemies advice. Anyway, get them feeling good about
themselves and you, before you leap in with both feet.

Then, in the same calm, soft voice, make your pitch.
"Anyway, I've noticed that Fluffy's halter seems to
have a lot of play in it. Compared to Rover, anyway.
Could you take a look at it? It looks like it needs to
come up an inch or two." Then, smile and walk away,
just like the others said. The smile says, "hey--it's
just a suggestion." Note that Rover is not your
horse--it's Jenny Somebody's, who happens to have
properly fitting tack. Another note: Don't offer to do
it for them; let them ask for help. Offering to do it
carries the subliminal message that they're
incompetent. That may be true, but making them feel
that way will just tick them off even more.

If they were receptive, you'll notice that Fluffy's
halter fits better in a day or two (hopefully, they
didn't over tighten it ;-) ). If they weren't, well
try again later(if you really must).

The idea behind this approach is to make your advice
as non-threatening as possible. Stubborn, angry people
are looking for excuses and scape-goats. You should
influence them without making yourself a target or
becoming confrontational. If you can "get them on the
team" you've probably perfected it.

There's my 2 pennies worth--for what its worth. Hope
it helps in the barn and elsewhere. And don't get the
notion that I'm anymore consistent about this than
anyone else. It's the technique I use when the advice
is serious and my brain is engaged.

Jim Beidle

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