The Advice Trap by Michael Bungay Stanier [Book Summary – Review]


Do you get angry when others don’t use your good advice? Or do you feel up exhausted at the end of the day after making efforts to give assistance to too many people?

The reason why you feel like that follows from being a slave to your Advice Monster – which is the inner voice that always has an urge to advise others what to do.

Through this summary, we’ll teach you precisely what the origin of that inner voice is, and explain the reason behind the destructiveness of wanting to find solutions constantly in your relationships and capacity to lead.

We are going to make you knowledgeable about the way to become an expert in the skill of listening and about the reason as to why posing questions matters at the end a lot more than offering advice. Moreover, we’ll show you the way all these things can aid you to gain empathy and humility after start understanding that there are other people who can offer good advice as well.


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Chapter 1 – Offering advice that wasn’t asked for makes it difficult to detect genuine solutions.


All of us have gone through the experience of needing to offer advice after a person has brought up an issue that he or she faces. All of a sudden, we start thinking about solutions that we’re extremely eager to share.

Then, what is the reason that we should not be so eager? Is it not a benign act to help someone if that person has a problem?

Well, in some cases, it certainly is a good thing to advise someone about something. To give an example, should a person asks you the location of the restroom, it would be a little awkward not to give them its location. However, almost every time, our automatic craving to give advice to others with respect to what they should do doesn’t yield positive results.

We’ll see what is happening. Usually, while others are sharing with us their issues, we want so eagerly to explain to them things that they should do that we aren’t actually attentive to the things they’re uttering. It is possible that a person a lot of time with trivial details until telling what the important thing is. Should we give advice too early, there is a risk of giving advice on the wrong subject due to not being patient enough to pay heed to the thing that actually disquiets them most.



Even when we understand what really occupies their minds, almost every time we’ll wind up coming up with mediocre solutions anyway. The reason for this is that a huge number of us don’t pay close-enough heed to gather crucial information. Rather, we trust on inadequate information and our presumptions to give advice. Hurrying to come with a solution, we stick to the earliest idea we pick up rather than having several of them in mind and searching for the most suitable among them.

Irresistibly advising others has effects on our health. It’s highly tiring to find solutions for the world’s issues and carry out others’ tasks for them always. Moreover, when you run a company, wasting all your time trapped in others’ issues signifies there is no time for you to see what’s going on.

Being on the side of those who get a tone of unasked advice is not easy as well. It is likely to make one feel upset thinking that people have no faith in you to reach your own judgments or solve problems your own.

People who always give advice are the people who harm us the most. By undervaluing the abilities of others around us, we hamper innovation and wear out ourselves. So as to bring an end to this vicious cycle, it is important to confront our inner Advice Monsters.


Chapter 2 – Everyone has their own internal Advice Monster – and we have to bring it under the control and do it now!


That voice speaking to you – the voice telling you that you possess all the solutions – is your private Advice Monster. Your Advice Monster is an essential component of your character that began to exist in times when stress weighted on your shoulders and you desired to feel more in control of a situation. The monster usually exists as three persons.

The first is known as “Tell-It.” This monster persuades you that the sole thing to add meaning to a situation is by holding the principal authority, and constantly possessing the correct solutions. This monster enjoys keeping the spotlight to itself and telling aloud why its ideas matter much more than those of anyone else’s.

The next kind of Advice Monster we have is “Save-It.” This persona is very repressed, rendering it more difficult to detect. “Save-It” persona won’t be keen to loudly share their opinions; however, just like the first persona, they also believe that they have all the answers. Furthermore, they think that they – no one but them – are capable of solving the situation, and they are morally bound to solve the situation.



Finally, we have the most manipulative Advice Monster among the three persona – the “Control-It” persona. The ”Control-It” craves to persuade you to be in control of everything or jeopardize thrusting your world into chaos. It tells you that you shouldn’t put trust in others, hence it is important for you to courageously steer the ship alone – or else!

It is not that difficult to understand the way Advice Monsters may restrain our lives. They hinder us from allowing other people to enter, and from being able to look at the world from diverse perspectives. Furthermore, they put an incredibly high amount of responsibility on us by deceiving us into believing that we’re superheroes – preordained to protect the world through one piece of advice at a time.

Then, what’s the way of doing away with these monsters? Unfortunately, it is impossible – they are an essential component of our character. In fact, these monsters came into existence to assist us to cope with tough emotions. Eradicating them would be rejecting essential components of ourselves.

However, we are also lucky. Though there is no way of doing away with them, it is possible to bring them under the control – and have them cooperate with us rather than make them our enemies. However, for starters, it is necessary to be more informed of them.


Chapter 3 – Nerve-racking circumstances can provoke our Advice Monsters.


In the same fashion that dogs are inclined to begin barking each time a car passes, some particular things can provoke our Advice Monsters and render them even louder. In order to begin getting your monster under control, it is very important for us to recognize what sets them off in our personal lives. Who – and what situations – are increasing the chances of triggering our advice-giving reflexes?

The writer says when he is with his brother, his advice-giving reflects are set off. However careful he endeavors to be, whenever he is together with his sibling, his Control-It persona desire to show itself and begin taking control of the situation.

For other people, when they are with people they don’t know, their Advice monster can be triggered. Or when they’re with another person who is no as much experienced as they’re. After you’ve understood which people trigger it, you must look for the ways of fixing this situation. Have you got an urge that telling you to advise people at work? Or in political discussions? Or when you find yourself in a situation very difficult to cope with? What sets your Advice monster is personal and other people can be triggered by other situations.

Following the identification of what sets you, begin reflecting the way you act when your advice monster is triggered. What kind of behaviors does your monster exhibits in a triggering situation? Do you give your friends or coworkers unsolicited advice? Or seek to be in control by filling silences on a date? Perhaps you’ll find this exercise awkward and disturbing; however, this exercise is of great significance, candidly speaking. Having particular instances will aid you to surmount the advice-giving cycle.



After you’ve observed several good instances, the next thing to do is to analyze the advantages – and disadvantages – of your irresistible, advice-giving behavior. People continue finding solutions for others due to obtaining a small reward for behaving like this. For instance, it might make you feel benevolent or clever when you give advice. Or it might give you a feeling of control if you dominate a meeting. However, its disadvantages will also exist.

Continuously finding solutions can have an adverse impact on your relationships and potential to lead, causing you to be alone and engulfed. So as to actually transform and grow, it is necessary to release your dependency on quick satisfaction and to construct a “future you” that in no way involves giving advice as a reflex, or due to feeling fearful. Consider the things that will be likely after you cease to make efforts to control situations, and rather can simply come together with people without having any advice in your mind!


Chapter 4 – Rather than finding solutions, we must pose more – and more suitable – questions.


It is a very known thing that toddlers pose questions as they examine the world surrounding them. What is the reason for the red color of ladybugs? What is the reason for consuming peanut butter sandwiches at lunch? What is the reason for a classmate to have two mothers?

Toddlers are honest and open and highly inquisitive. However, experiencing the process of becoming adults, people lose that essential skill of posing questions and rather begin craving to share with others our opinions. Should we be desirous of becoming great leaders, we should return to basics.

Then, what is the way of learning to pose good questions? The most essential point is that our questions should be concise and easy. It is also important to guarantee the questions are truly open-ended. For instance, starting a talk by posing “What’s on your mind?” lets the talk partner respond however they wish. However, questions that begin like “Wouldn’t you agree…” or “Don’t you think…” are in reality merely statements feigning questions. They bring an end to the talk.



After receiving a response to our initial question, we must suppress the desire to give advice, and rather pose such other questions as “What else?” This basic question retains so much power since it compels people to delve further and disclose any underlying difficulties they might not have noticed.

One other perfect question you can continue the conversation with is to pose, “Where does the actual difficult lie for you?” Naturally, once your conversation partner responds to your question, your Advice Monster will disturb you to offer an excellent solution – however, never do it. Rather, continue with the questions. Push them into coming up with opinions for themselves regarding the actions they crave to take. For instance, you could ask them “What do you want?” or “If you’re saying yes to this, what must you say no to?” 

A perfect technique to cease the talk is to pose, “What was most helpful or worthy here for you?” Providing someone with the opportunity to think about it for themselves is a lot more useful than giving lectures about what they should do.

By beginning to pose excellent questions, you train the most essential feature one can possess as a leader: curiosity. By sparing your time to pay heed to the people surrounding you, you provide them with the opportunity to turn to their own inner wisdom and form a feeling of liberty and aim.


Chapter 5 – People will make every effort and eschew having a conversation that may hurt them.


When you pose questions, you’ll realize something essential begins to change: rather than being controlled by your Advice Monster, you’ll start to take up a coaching habit – which shows that your interest shifted to giving assistance to detect difficulties instead of finding excellent solutions.

However, occasionally, despite the great effort you make, you’ll become trapped in a discussion that’s not making any headway. You pose the appropriate questions, however, you continue to be unable to really identify where the difficulty is. This indicates most likely that you have found yourself in a “Foggy-fier.” Foggy-fiers are conversational traps that – that resemble fog a lot – have the potential of concealing what the matter actually is. Fortunately for you, if you know how to detect foggy-fiers as soon as possible, you’ll then be able to see through them immediately.

Occasionally, a conversation doesn’t go deeper since none of the participants wants to be in a vulnerable position. Thus, you decide to choose a safe subject that each participant doesn’t feel uneasy with, even if the chosen topic is not challenging.



Or whoever it is you’re coaching could be unwittingly attempting to sidetrack you from the actual matter. For instance, they participate in the session and continuously bring up a person who’s annoying them. Should you not pay attention, you’ll overlook the truth that the person has totally distracted into “coaching the ghost” – making analyses about a person absent in the room! Should you encounter a situation like this, you must tenderly draw the focus back by posing “Why does this matter to you?”

Or – occasionally– someone will take part in a session with an engulfing amount of irrelevant problems, causing each of you to get totally confused – a case the writer names as “Popcorning.” When this is the case, what needs to be done is to let them choose the difficult they believe is the one that matters most and you can begin there.

Among other things that divert the focus to something else is talking in the abstract – which the writer names as “Big-Picturing.” Or telling long, comprehensive stories that make no headway – which the writer names as “Yarning.” Although everyone likes hearing a good story or engaging in a theoretical conversation, these tactics do not present any help since they deflect from the genuine, vulnerable work. What needs to be done as being a coach is to draw focus to that, and pose a question again that’ll return to that challenging vulnerable topic.

People utilize Foggy-fiers to eschew having tough conversations that can hurt us. By posing questions that go deeper, you present them with the opportunity to recognize their own blocks and lead the conversation to the next stage. You’ll find out more about that in the following chapter.


Chapter 6 – In order to have conversations that change others’ life, it is necessary for people to feel safe while they are with you.


Our brains are always observant, looking for menaces. If the brain gets the feeling that something catastrophic is approaching, it activates our survival mechanisms.

If we find ourselves in a difficult or uneasy conversation, our brains activate their survival mechanisms – which means they abruptly take action, transmitting the signal to initiate these same survival modes. Consequently, humans have two options: enter ”fight” mode and begin to be hostile or defensive, or enter ”freeze” mode and do nothing.

Surely, these aren’t the types of responses that are wanted if you’re striving to continue a challenging conversation with someone.

We’ll give you four fundamental tactics to utilize in order to have someone feel safe. For starters, back them up by agreeing to their perspective. Be empathetic and reflect them the things they utter through nods of emboldening and positive language. Utilize words such as “us” and “we” to demonstrate that you’re together in this, dealing with the issue together. When somebody feels backed, it reduces their chances of being defensive.

The next thing that is possible to do is to demonstrate esteem, by elucidating that you are not superior to but equal to them. Human relationships include numerous power plays, with people assessing one another in order to see who is more powerful. When you’re a coach, it is important to let go of that desire for power and authority and be vulnerable with the people for whom you’re a coach. Tal about your process and hesitancies, and demonstrate to them that you care about what they think as precisely much as – or even more than – what you think.



The feeling of equality will provide them with a feeling of freedom, which constitutes the third vital component in feeling safe. When people feel like they can actively take part in the process, it’ll be more possible for them to discuss their problems.

Finally, you should constantly control expectations and don’t do anything that can be unexpected for them since this will immediately cause them to feel uneasy. Preparing a structure for the session has the potential of assisting them to feel relaxed such as arranging different times for different tasks. 

By building a safe, backing environment, you’ll avert the survival mechanisms that ”freeze” people or cause them to enter into ” fight” mode and aid them to start talking about the sorts of overwhelming, interesting conversations that will be transformative for them.


Chapter 7 – In order to be a good coach, it is necessary for you to discover the way to become coachable.


Even the boldest climber won’t ascend Mount Everest in one attempt. The climber will go two steps back for each step ahead, guaranteeing that he takes his rest and get accustomed to the altering air pressure in between.

Brınging under control your Advice Monster and creating your coaching mindset will resemble the process of climbing the Everest: gradual. You might think you’re showing improvement and then find yourself returning directly back into your old methods. This might make you infuriated, however, keep this in mind: you’re altering the habits that you’ve been used to for many years! Naturally, it’ll last for some time until you manage to rectify them.

The most suitable method to improve your coaching muscles is practicing. Coaching cannot be improved by working behind closed doors in a private session. It is possible for you to employ the essential arts of listening and posing questions in each interaction you have. Pose your parents and siblings open-ended questions concerning their day. Test your co-workers concerning their opinions about overcoming issues together. Use each chance to be inquisitive and broaden your outlook.



There is no need for coaching to solely be realized in direct confrontations, too – it is possible to do it by means of the phone, Zoom, and Skype. In addition, emails and texts are excellent platforms to hone out your novel facilities as well. Let the coaching mindset flow into all sides of your life.

However, so as to continue learning, practicing coaching won’t suffice – it is equally important to practice coachability, which involves soliciting feedback on your performance and making effort to enhance your performance anywhere you can.

Being coachable involves having your own coach as well. Being coached will assist you to know what your impediments are. What’s the way of trying to eschew the coaching process? Which things make you feel vulnerable, and what’s the way of tackling that? Interacting with these things will enhance your performance further when you work with others since you’ll manage to show empathy towards them and comprehend what they experience.

Managing to get your Advice Monster under the control will last for your whole life. However, in the same fashion as climbing Everest, the journey bears no less significance than the destination itself. Rather than reproaching or criticizing yourself excessively for not reaching your destination quickly enough, enjoy the journey and be happy with your enthusiasm to learn and develop yourself.


The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier Book Review


Many people spend their time irresistibly advising others due to having internalized the thought that they can just add meaning to a situation should they come up with good solutions. However, constantly saying people what they should do is counterproductive when it precludes us from paying attention to what they’re really trying to tell. Rather than swiftly jumping in with advice, it is important to become proficient in the technique of posing probing questions. Doing this will render us able to see the thing that puts pressure on their shoulders and give them the autonomy to find their own solutions. 


See whether your advice has been helpful. 

Sometimes, people will try to solicit advice from you – which can be difficult after working so much on steering clear of it! However, giving a piece of considerate advice is not the same thing as giving an automatic one. Whey you’re certain that someone needs you to give offer advice, then give advice humbly, clarifying that your advice is only one among many ways to tackle the problem. After you’ve followed this suggestion, see if your advice has been helpful by validating that that was what the person who asked for advice really needed.



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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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