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Taming Your GAM – Giving Advice Monkey


Every one of us has an Advice Monkey in us.

Just waiting to be given the chance to jump in with valuable solutions when you’re asked for advice, and most times, even when you’re not asked.

For most of us, it’s a deeply ingrained (and unhelpful) habit… we simply can’t help ourselves.

Michael Bungay Stanier, author of the amazing book, The Advice Trap, advises us to become much more aware of our instinct to give advice, and to proactively tame that urge.

Easy to say, and SO hard to do!

Most times when someone asks for your advice, they’re unlikely to be clear themselves what challenge they’re trying to solve, and staying curious a little bit longer will help the situation far more than any early words of ‘wisdom’!

So Michael recommends we break our GAM habit, and try something different instead – ask a few questions:

  • What’s the real challenge here for you?
  • And What Else? And What Else?
  • What do you really want?

By this point the other person is clearer what their challenge is.

They’ve tapped into new brain neural circuitry and started to think about their issue differently. If we used an Iceberg metaphor, they’re getting below the water line to what’s really on their mind and on their heart.

They’ve had a chance to experience their own ‘aha’ moment, a squirt of dopamine in the anticipation of moving forward with the ‘real’ challenge, and seeing more options for themselves.

Our GAM creates Empathy Misses – it actually has the opposite impact than what we intended – it fuels disconnection. It makes people feel less worthy.

Dr Brené Brown names Curiosity as the skill set of the future.

Transformational leaders have a coaching approach in the conversations they have where people ask for advice.

They consciously tame their urge to give advice. They stay curious longer. They ask questions that they genuinely don’t know the answer to. And then they listen, and listen…without interrupting…and without formulating their next response.

Their response is, you guessed it, another question.


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