Giving advice is a form of art.

No matter if you’re a leader giving orders, an industry expert giving advice to clients, or a blogger offering insights, there’s more to giving other people direction than just telling them what they need to hear.

I often remind myself of the words of the Danish existentialist, Soren Kierkegaard:

“If one is truly to succeed in leading a person to a specific place, one must first and foremost take care to find him where he is and begin there.

This is the secret in the entire art of helping.

Anyone who cannot do this is himself under a delusion if he thinks he is able to help someone else. In order truly to help someone else, I must understand more than he–but certainly first and foremost understand what he understands.

If I do not do that, then my greater understanding does not help him at all. If I nevertheless want to assert my greater understanding, then it is because I am vain or proud, then basically instead of benefiting him I really want to be admired by him.

But all true helping begins with a humbling.

The helper must first humble himself under the person he wants to help and thereby understand that to help is not to dominate but to serve, that to help is a not to be the most dominating but the most patient, that to help is a willingness for the time being to put up with being in the wrong and not understanding what the other understands.”

Anyone who cannot do this is delusional (and vain) if the ambition truly is to help others. Sure, you must understand more than him or her — but first and foremost must you understand what he or she understands.

You must then seek the role of a servant to the person you’re helping, a challenging proposition for anyone in a position of superiority.

Photo by J W on Unsplash.