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New Art Of War: Techniques and Rules in Advice

New Art Of War: Techniques and Rules in Advice

PARK Jae-Hee

Jan. 11, 2008


Hello, I am Jae-Hee Park on The New Art of War.

American author and poet Carolyn Wells once said, “Advice is one of those things it is far more blessed to give than to receive.” Knowing when to give advice is important. Just as important, is knowing when to receive it. Do you welcome advice? People who welcome advice and look back on their actions have the potential to become much more successful than those who don’t. Still, even though, advice is given for the benefit of those who receive it, the effectiveness of advice depends on the attitude of the person dispensing it. If advice is smug and sarcastic, no one will take it, no matter how beneficial it may be. Here are five ways to be more persuasive when giving advice.

To start off, advice should be “warm.” No matter how well intentioned, overly critical advice will not serve its intentions. A politician during the Northern Song Dynasty once remarked, “Even a fool can point out and criticize the mistakes of another person, while a wise man will learn to forgive mistakes. When giving advice, therefore, a person should be as generous as they are when forgiving one’s own self.” Remember to be generous about other people’s mistakes as if they were your own. Then your advice will be much more heartfelt and convincing.

Second, dispense advice appropriately. Keep in mind that one must always be sensitive towards the person receiving your advice, as an overbearing advice-giver will seldom be popular. There are times and places when advice is less than welcome, and will not only be ignored but also incur hostile feelings for the advisor. Confucius once stressed that a person should be “fully aware” of the situation when dispensing advice. No matter how appropriate the words, a word of advice to parents or a superior cannot be taken lightly. However if the situation calls for it, a person should take into account the full context of the situation and gently present one’s suggestions.

Third, advice should be given in mutual trust.Remember to give advice fully backed by good faith. Without good faith, the person receiving advice may think the advisor is simply being critical. It is a prerequisite that mutual respect already exists between the people giving and receiving advice.

Fourth, too much advice may impair the relationship between two people. A person can only hear the same advice for a limited time. Repetition of the same thing is irritating, and will likely cause a rift between two people. Yan Yan, a disciple of Confucius, observed, “If I give constant advice to the king, I may soon be scorned and disregarded. Constant advice to a friend will also create a rift between the two.” No one wants to be around a person who constantly hands out advice. Advice should be properly planned down to the last detail. Overuse of advice is not truly advice but criticism. Advice should always be sincere

Fifth, advice should have its limits. When asked about friendship Confucius once said, “Advice between friends is about helping each other improve. If advice is provided in vain, the advice should stop there. This is to save oneself from trouble.” If advice does not change behavior, this may mean the advisee thinks otherwise. Overuse of advice may step out of the boundary of advice and into mandatory enforcement.

Advice involves complex and delicate issues. Advice may mean hearing one’s faults and having one’s feelings hurt. Still, one should be able to supply advice when the situation calls for it. When one is carefully bringing up advice to superiors, the person should be extra careful and thoughtful. As another ancient sage Mencius once opined, there are three ways to deal with a ruler’s mistake. “The first is to point out the rulers’ mistake. The second is to depend on wise words to guide the ruler out of his faults. The third is to give up on him thinking it is no use.” Advice is a noble effort to help people prosper, but remember there are rules and principles in giving and receiving advices. Those who understand these rules will be more successful.

This has been a lecture on The New Art of War by Jae-Hee Park.

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