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Win Over an Opponent by Asking for Advice


Jun. 27, 2014 HBR Blogs

What do an inflated surgical bill, a fuming real-estate developer, and a dreaded performance appraisal have in common? All can be mitigated with one simple gesture: a request for advice.

We seek advice on a daily basis, on everything from who grills the best burger in town to how to handle a sticky situation with a coworker. However, many people don’t fully appreciate how powerful requesting guidance can be. Soliciting advice will arm you with information you didn’t have before, but there are other benefits you may not have considered:

1. Advisors will like you more:  Arthur Helps sagely observed, “We all admire the wisdom of people who come to us for advice.” Being asked for advice is inherently flattering because it’s an implicit endorsement of our opinions, values, and expertise. Furthermore, it works equally well up and down the hierarchy — subordinates are delighted and empowered by requests for their insights, and superiors appreciate the deference to their authority and experience. James Pennebaker’s research shows that if you want your peers to like you, ask them questions and let them experience the “joy of talking.” This is especially important because research shows that increasing your likability will do more for your career than slightly increasing competence.

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