Bare-assed Consulting 1.2: Add Vice

Consultants have a long and troubling relationship with advice. The young ones innocently presume consulting to be a means for dispensing advice, and their clients won’t readily dissuade them. The more experienced might have developed a dependency on advice-giving, and unselfconsciously inflict it upon everyone. Many consultants have been divorced. More than once.

The bare-assed consultant deeply appreciates that giving advice, cheapens it. Further, unbidden advice rarely produces intended results. Conveniently deflected and comfortably ignored, the very best advice might be to avoid giving any advice. Still, The Advice Vice seems as common to consultants as Brooks Brothers suits.

It took a very long time to wean myself off my advice-giving Jones. My difficulty might have been tied to my need for recognition, for identity. If I was not the bearer of sacred tablets, just who would I be? My Muse claims that I’m a bit of a natural know-it-all, and try as I might, my smarty-pantsness gooshes out around even the most scrupulously-tightened fittings.

I could have used a twelve-step program, one where I publicly admitted my powerless in the face of such positional authority. I might have sought a deeper relationship with a higher power to stay my over-eager hand. Few temptations prove more seductive than a helpless-seeming client just aching to be clued in. I’m ashamed to admit the number of times I’ve gorged myself on that forbidden fruit.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon the idea that I might be an expert at not being an expert. Before this momentous discovery, I posed as an expert, faking this ill-begotten identity more or less successfully. If I was an expert, it seems at least tragic that I not at least try to share the wealth of my expertise. But careful scrutiny disclosed that whatever my experience, I could not claim expert status in my clients’ realms. Theirs were unique contexts, not trivial one-offs, and I was unavoidably inexperienced in their specific situation. And situation matters more than I ever previously suspected. If my client was not the expert of their own domain, no one, not even little old expert me, could be.

Beware the consultant bearing the poison gift of good advice, especially if provided ‘for your own good.’ Embrace, instead, that curious counsellor who might insist that you really are the expert of yourself, the unwitting master of your stuckness, the wise advisor you might have innocently mistook him to be. The bare-assed consultant’s gift is laid truly bare then, when the clear opportunity to give good advice passes without response. This might not seem the greater gift then, and you’ll each feel the pseudo-opportunity slipping past as if salvation denied. The wisdom comes later, after the client stumbles upon their own unlikely wisdom and their very own astounding mobility. Only then.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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