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How to give advice so that people will listen

Ramit Sethi

Great Conversation Questions Cover

I look back on my 21-year-old self and cringe. Like a bull in a china shop, I “knew” what was right, and by god, I was going to tell everyone.

Friend: “Sigh, I hate banks.”

Ramit: (ALARMED, I HEAR A PROBLEM I CAN SOLVE): “Why, what’s wrong?”

Friend: “They just charged me $34 for an overdraft fee. That’s the 3rd time this month.”






I really wanted to help…and I knew the “right” answer. But I wasn’t presenting my message in the right way, so it landed with a thud.

In fact, it was worse than saying nothing at all, because when you lecture people like this, you just confirm that any discussion around money makes them feel bad. People don’t like to feel bad, so they simply shut off talking about it at all.

It took me a few years to discover that people don’t like to be lectured about things they already know they’re doing wrong.

Can you think of any examples? Like, say, being in a bad relationship (“He treats you like shit! Why do you stay with him?”), losing weight, or money.

For a guy who prided himself on being “unemotional,” I quickly realized that I was missing something important. AND THAT WAS BEING ABLE TO NOT BE A HUGE DICK WHEN I GAVE ADVICE.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to give advice that people actually listen to. You and I both know how much good advice has helped us. What if we could turn around and learn how to give it in a way that actually resonated with people?

To talk about giving good advice, I want to introduce you to Darya Rose, a successful author and star IWT student. Darya, take it away.

*      *      *

The Golden Rule has been letting me down my entire life.

While “treat others as you would like to be treated” makes sense on the surface, it really only works if you assume that people more or less prefer to be treated in the same way.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. And it can cause some serious communication barriers.

I am a member of a rare group of people who are driven more by logic than emotion. Think Ramit, Tim Ferriss, and Mr. Spock.

spock cropped

As a female member of this low-emotion group, I’m even more rare. Like a pink unicorn.

You probably know a few people like me. We are often described as “cold” and “aloof,” but are also considered “low drama” and great problem solvers. We are rarely known for our suave people skills.

It wasn’t until I started blogging that the limitations of my low-emotional brain (and The Golden Rule) became obvious to me.

What losing weight taught me about empathy

Like many women, I spent much of my life struggling with my weight and have done virtually every diet on the planet. Most of the plans worked for a few weeks or months, but inevitably the weight would come back––with a few extra pounds to boot.

Frustrated after 15 years of dieting failures, I delved into the scientific literature to figure out what I was doing wrong. From the research, I learned that most of the advice I was given about health and weight loss was incorrect, and that dieting is actually a better way to gain weight than to lose it. D’oh.

Armed with this new knowledge I stopped dieting and finally lost weight for good. The change this produced in my life was so profound that I decided to switch careers to help others do the same.

When I first launched Summer Tomato, my instinct was to help people by correcting the information they had, thinking that, like me, all they needed were better data. I wrote about all the tactics that I knew worked for weight loss, like throwing away processed “health foods” and eating more vegetables and other Real Foods.

But while people were intrigued by my results, I mostly heard excuses about why they couldn’t take action:

“I’d love to lose weight, but I hate vegetables so I can’t.”

“Cook for myself after work? No freaking way I have time for that.”

“I’d rather die than run on the dreadmill.”

“Real Food is too expensive. You’re an elitist.”

This was my first indication that other people were a lot less like me than I had assumed, and it was preventing me from helping them achieve their goals.

To get to the root of this problem I have spent the past several years focused on the psychology of behavioral change: aka how to help people act on and actually achieve their health and weight loss goals. I’ve since listened to and analyzed virtually every excuse imaginable that people use for not taking care of themselves, and have figured out how to get around them and get real results.

The biggest insight I gained, however, wasn’t simply what to communicate, but how to communicate it.

Are you less emotional than most people?

It turns out what distinguishes low-emotional people from regular people (if you’re a follower of Jungian psychology you might call these people Thinkers and Feelers, respectively) is how much we rely on empathy to communicate.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Normal people rely heavily on empathy for most interactions. If you’re wondering why this needs explaining, you’re probably normal. But if you’re a Thinker like me, this could be news to you.

Thinkers, unlike Feelers, have a very low need for empathy. We don’t need to feel “heard” or “understood” in order to connect with someone. For this reason, we have difficulty understanding the need for empathy in others.

This is where The Golden Rule breaks down.

More often than not, the emotional component of a tactical problem such as losing weight, seems obvious and somewhat trivial to a Thinker. Of course you want to get healthy and look great. We all do. Duh. Instead, we prefer to skip straight to possible solutions.

Unfortunately, unless the person receiving the advice also happens to be a Thinker, even the best information will likely go unheeded.

Like this:

Feeler: “I would really love to lose 15 lbs.”

Thinker: “That’s easy, just do X.”

Feeler: “…but this other thing in my life is really important.… “

Thinker: “Just do X.”

Feeler: Rolls eyes, does nothing.

Thinker: Rolls eyes, sighs in frustration.

It isn’t that Thinkers do not have emotions or the capacity for empathy. In fact, in an obviously emotional situation such as a bad break up or losing a loved one, we can be very empathetic and great friends to have.

It is in situations where emotions aren’t front and center, especially those that involve advice or problem solving, where a Thinker’s lack of understanding of a Feeler’s emotional needs will prevent effective communication.

The good news is that empathetic communication can be learned. With practice, even low-emotional people can be empathetic in situations that involve advice or problem solving.

If you’re a Thinker, developing the skill of empathy will allow your advice to reach more people and have far greater impact.

Here are the essential steps for empathetic communication:

Step 1: Listen deeply for the emotional undertone of what someone is saying

As a Thinker, your natural tendency is to listen solely for facts. This is great for problem solving, but remember that to get a person to listen to your advice you also need to address their emotions.

For example, when someone says: “I would really love to lose 15 lbs.”

You hear: “I need tactics to lose a moderate amount of body fat.”

They really mean: “I need to feel supported by XYZ.”

But behind the words is a deeper emotion that can’t be addressed by tactics, and your job is to figure out what that is. Instead of skipping straight to the advice, try to uncover her hopes, fears, and dreams.

Instead of: “That’s easy, just do X.” Ask: “Oh really? What have you tried?”

Listen for signs of fear, frustration, hope, and other underlying emotions. Pay attention to the words they are using, as well as tone and body language if you’re speaking in person.

Sometimes people are straightforward in explaining their fears and say things like, “I’m afraid I’ll put in all this effort and still fail.” Fear of failure is extremely common, and being able to recognize it essential.

However, you may need to ask additional questions to get to the core emotion. The use of generic statements that start with “I know I should…”, “I don’t have time…”, or “I don’t like (insert any broad category or action)…” imply that there is a fear or aversion lying below the surface of their words that they are avoiding.

Similarly, generalization statements and using words like “always” or “never” imply an underlying invisible script that reflects a hidden emotion. Continue asking “why?” until you get an answer.

For instance, if a woman tells me she would like to cook healthy meals but that it is always too much work, I’ll ask her why it’s so hard. Often I’ll hear something like, “My husband refuses to eat anything healthy, so I’m forced to make two separate meals if I want to eat well.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Step 2: Try to name the core emotion

From the above response, you might guess the woman feels unappreciated, frustrated, helpless or insecure about her cooking skills. Once you think you have a good idea of what her emotional state is, test your hypothesis by asking directly:

“Wow, that must be incredibly frustrating. Why do you think he’s so stubborn?”

“I think it’s because his mother was a terrible cook, so he won’t even try anything I make except meat and boiled potatoes. I’m actually a pretty good cook, but he won’t give me a chance.”

She feels frustrated and unappreciated.

Step 3: Relate to the emotion to show understanding

Once you’ve discovered the core emotion, you must show that you can relate to the feeling. There are several ways you can do this:


Sometimes simply repeating back or “mirroring” the emotion is enough to demonstrate your understanding.

This can feel very basic and pointless if you’re a Thinker, but it is in fact incredibly effective. If you’re new to empathetic communication, this is the perfect place to start practicing. Once you see how effective this technique can be it gets easier to use it in everyday conversations:

“You’re a great cook and he won’t even try your food. That must feel terrible.”

“Yeah, it really sucks.”

Be vulnerable

Sharing an experience you’ve had that evoked a similar emotion is also an excellent way to show your understanding. This is called vulnerability.

Vulnerability is a more advanced form of empathetic communication, but it is by far the most effective technique if you can master it.

Everyone has stories and emotions that relate to those of others. The difficulty for a Thinker is remembering to share the emotion rather than the tactical solution. From the listener’s perspective though the more you share, the more you care:

“Oh man, my dad is the same way. I made the most amazing brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and he wouldn’t even touch them. I put bacon on them and everything. It was so upsetting, I’d hate to go through that every single night.”

“Yeah, it makes it really hard.”

Validate emotions

Another way to show your understanding is to validate the emotions by explaining with logic how you can see their point of view.

Thinkers can be quite good at this, since it plays to our natural tendency to be rational. The major difference here is that we’re focusing on the emotion rather than solving the problem:

“You put in all that work of shopping and preparing delicious food so you can have a tasty and healthy dinner, and he won’t even try it once. That doesn’t seem fair to you. And besides, heart disease runs in his family. He should at least give you the benefit of the doubt and try to eat a little better. After all, you’re only doing it because you love him.”

“Totally. I don’t understand why he can’t see that.”

Note that this technique works even if you disagree with the person’s analysis. However explaining that you understand how they came to their conclusion can create the necessary emotional connection. You can work on correcting their logic after that connection is established.

Step 4: Withhold judgment

If you’re a Thinker, chances are you knew what the person’s problem was within the first few moments of the conversation. However, it is essential that you withhold judgment of the other person’s actions, feelings or goals, or she will immediately shut you out.

In the example above, old Darya would have instantly exclaimed, “Stop using the word healthy! Nobody wants to eat “healthy” food. Think that’ll get you anywhere with him? Hell no.”

And I would have received the predictable response:

“Hmmm… I don’t know. I don’t think he’ll ever eat the vegetables I make.”

Even worse would have been if I’d judged her feelings:

“Don’t feel bad about him, you know what’s best. Just feed him whatever you want and if he doesn’t like it he can cook for himself.”

“Hmmm… maybe.” Silently thinks: no way I’m jeopardizing my marriage for a stupid plate of broccoli. This chick has no idea what she’s talking about.

Telling people they are wrong has the opposite effect of empathy, and instead conveys to them that they are not understood. If you wish to be a helpful and effective communicator, you must resist the urge to rush to judgment.

Step 5: Offer advice last

Once you’ve listened carefully to the other person’s situation and demonstrated your understanding of their emotions without expressing judgment, you can carefully begin offering advice.

Low-emotion people tend to assume that the help they have to offer is the most important part of the conversation and like to offer it immediately. But someone will be far more likely to listen and accept your advice if you first establish a deeper connection.

By the way, if you’re a Feeler offering advice to a Thinker, feel free to skip steps 1-4 and jump right into the advice. We appreciate it.

Empathy takes practice

Learning to communicate effectively if you’re not naturally an emotional person can be very difficult. For myself, learning to be more empathetic felt like learning a new language. I had to train my mind to listen carefully for hidden emotional meaning, translate it internally, then formulate the appropriate response. Now that I’ve had a bit of practice it feels more natural, but it wasn’t easy. (Did you notice how I talked about my feelings in this paragraph? That took serious work.)

Your challenge is to start practicing empathetic communication in everyday life. If empathy doesn’t come naturally to you, strike up a conversation with someone and simply listen for how they are feeling about the topic. Ask questions to try to get to the core emotion, and resist giving advice. It’s hard, but it’s a muscle you need to exercise if you ever want people to listen to you.

Have you ever tried to give advice to someone and they didn’t listen? What could you have done differently?

Darya Rose, Ph.D. is the author of Foodist, and creator of Summer Tomato, one of TIME’s 50 Best Websites. She eats amazing things daily and hasn’t even considered going a diet since 2007. For a free starter kit to help you get healthy and lose weight without dieting, sign up for the Summer Tomato weekly newsletter.

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  1. avatar
    Josh Haroldson

    This is a fantastic summary of what my wife has been working on teaching ME for the past 10 years. I have always been quick to deduce problems/solutions, but in my haste to share what I KNOW to be the right solution, I often missed how I needed to deliver my thoughts.

    What has really worked for us is to focus on the idea of, “Yes…and”. Basically that forces me to get in the habit of showing that I’m listening and gives me time to consider the best way to deliver my thoughts. Thanks for sharing this!

    • avatar

      can you provide an example of the Yes..and?? This seems like something I need to try

  2. avatar

    loved the article!!!! as a thinker, I always feel this way and have been trying to cope with it because I see that other people don’t take it that well – this article is a great reminder for that thanks!

  3. avatar

    I loved this.

    Regarding (2) and (3) I read a book about talking to kids several years ago. I had done so at the recommendation of a software developer, who blogged that it was astonishing how well those techniques worked with adults too.

    The key points I took away were exactly your 2nd and 3rd point.

    It turns out that most of us, while we can control our emotions better, are basically children in how we react emotionally..

    • avatar

      I love this book, it was one of the first I read on my empathy journey. And it TOTALLY works on adults, which is awesome and kinda funny. Thanks!

    • avatar

      I used to facilitate workshops on How to Talk so Your Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Your kids will Talk. I also facilitated a workshop called “Virtues”. Both taught these techniques and were invaluable in raising my kids. Now that my children are grown, I use these skills with my adult clients to great effect. We are all children inside and react very much the same as we did as kids when spoken to in certain ways. Using empathy, mirroring, and active listening skills we can become masters in social situations. With practice we can manage others and even manipulate situations to achieve amazing results with co-workers, employees and clients. Thanks you for this great reminder.

  4. avatar


    Thank you for sharing such helpful advice. I love the ways you’ve broken down how to show emotion to someone. I can see how this, and the other advice you give would influence someone so much to lose weight rather than just giving the facts. Giving the advice last is totally counter-intuitive, and in my experience works so much better in actually influencing change than giving advice first. The person has had a chance to be heard, and the advice is more targeted to their real needs.

    Thanks so much for your post!

  5. avatar
    Ealasaid Witt

    Thank you – this is an amazing insight into how to relate better to folks. I’m the opposite side of the coin – I am a big *feeler*, and taking the emotional temperature of a situation is utterly second nature, so this opens my eyes as to how the disconnect between a logical and a feeler actually happens. By discussing the internal thought process of a more logical, rational person, it helps me understand why I feel I’m being trampled when given advice, even though that’s not the intention, and why I resist even listening.

  6. avatar

    Hi Darya,

    I really like how you break down the steps in this article. However, since this article is about having empathy, and since you’re a self-declared Thinker and you asked us to skip straight to the advice, I would say you missed your mark here, at least with me. Writing is as important a form of communication as speaking is, and your lack of empathy in your writing here is really overshadowing the advice you’re trying to give.

    -People tend to equate being “emotional” with being “weak”, and by declaring yourself “rational” (read: “strong”), you’re doing the “making people feel bad” thing that you’re trying to warn against.

    -By telling us to speak more directly to Thinkers (read: “you”), you make it seem like communication with Thinkers is more efficient (read: “better”). That creates distance between you and your readers, and that conflicts with the validation and relatability that you discuss in Step 3.

    -And by starting the entire piece talking about how you are a Thinker and how you’re friends with Ramit, etc., you make this piece seem more about yourself than it is about helping your readers, which negates its purpose.

    I’m somewhere in the middle between Thinker and Feeler, so while I do appreciate direct advice to a certain degree, the Feeler in me has a soft spot for good, empathetic communication. It’s something I’m always conscious of and a goal that I constantly work towards.

    Thanks for your time.


    • avatar

      Thanks for your honest feedback, Nat. I’ll happily admit that I’m still a work in progress.

      You’re right in that Thinkers often consider their reasoning abilities superior, and view emotional communication as less efficient and somewhat trivial. The point of this article was to show how this is in fact a huge error. Thinkers are the target audience here, so I wanted to show empathy (in this case I used Validation, since it is a Thinker’s favorite) to their point of view: that strong problem solving skills are a superpower. But I also emphasized the caveat that those skills do no good if the solution isn’t implemented by others (this happens to Thinkers all the time, and the core emotion is frustration). Only then could I offer the advice that considering emotions in addition to logic is the solution to this problem.

      Thinkers are a funny bunch because we are motivated by emotion as well, we just don’t realize it. Can you imagine if I just wrote, “Hey guys, you should be more emotional because other people like it better. Here’s how you do it.” Haha, meep meep.

    • avatar

      Hi Darya,

      I’m not sure if I hit the Reply button to your comment, but this is Nat again. I understand now. That makes sense. I guess the Feeler in me felt excluded 🙂

      Thanks for your reply. Keep meeping empathetically 😀

  7. avatar

    Haha Darya, we share the same problem 😀

    My husband always complains that I don’t have enough empathy!
    Like I always try to give a solution to a problem when he complains about the problem he’s having!…

    Thanks for the pointers! I’ll be using more empathy in my email list and groups…

  8. avatar

    Very helpful info! As a “thinker” I will definitely try to implement.

  9. avatar


    Thanks for this article. I’ve been discouraged just this morning about my new blog. As a definite thinker vs. feeler, this article is very helpful to me. I believe I actually have a high level of empathy. But, I have a low level of sympathy. I can easily undertand what people are feeling and going through, but I have trouble relating to it. I think a lot of what you describe is using your empathy to achieve or emulate symptahy.

  10. avatar
    Rob Kanzer

    Thank you for the posts!
    I highly recommend “Non-violent Communication” by the late Marshall Rosenberg, PhD (books and you tube videos, etc.)
    In 1981, what I learned from Marshall blew my mind and I have been using it professionally as a Life and Business Coach to teach others and in my personal life to enhance intimacy and connection.
    Want a free intro? 617 491 8939 Greater Boston 7 days a week
    With love and respect, Rob Kanzer

  11. avatar

    Haha 🙂
    Nice to READ you Darya.
    I really needed this. I always wanted to help people but…
    “Roadrunner goes meep meep”
    In the last couple of years I’ve tried my best to overcome this. (People around me feel much better), but I need more improvement.
    Thanks for the post Darya.

  12. avatar

    Excellent Guest post! Thanks for sharing!

    I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated with my girlfriend who is obviously in a dead end job, but is hesitant to take my advice to naturally network and systematically test potential dream jobs. What sucks is that she knows I’m a Dream Job graduate and that I have already done what she looking to accomplish. But now I realize the problem may be in my delivery.

    I’m definitely going to revisit the conversation, but this time I will make sure that I relate more to the frustration and fear she’s experiencing before offering my suggestions to improve her job search efforts.

    … I’ll also recommend that she starts reading your blog, Ramit. ‘_-

  13. avatar

    Great timing! Just this weekend I was, yet again, confronted with the feedback that many people see me as a know-it-all (aka STOP BEING SUCH AN A_HOLE) I was SO frustrated. Why can so-and-so answer your question and ‘they’ are not a know-it all but when I say it I am? Why do you ask me anything if you don’t want an answer? Don’t you WANT to solve your problem … THIS article made so much sense to me. I have been attempting to make these adjustments already in my life and I notice when done skillfully they *do* make a huge difference. And yes, they do feel awkward and pointless to me – it take a lot of effort. I’m a THINKER AND AN INTROVERT. As you state, in a powerfully charged situation where emotions run high (celebration or heart break or sorrow) I am as mushy and over run with feelings as the next person (I cry at some commercials – really) and I’m ready with the shoulder and Kleenex; Day to day? let’s not get entangled with how we *feeeeeeel* let’s get to work and solve the problem so we don’t *have* to feeeeeel. Let’s save the feeeeeels for when they matter most – like parties and weddings and good-byes and break-ups not food shopping, haircuts or blog comments . Thank you for breaking this down in super clear steps!

  14. avatar

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I, too, am a pink unicorn in a family full of feelers. As you can imagine, I get frustrated regularly when others present problems for which I then immediately present solutions to no avail. I am positive that this change in my approach will be helpful for both my family and client interactions. Thanks again.

    • avatar

      Check out what you said here: “when others present problems”. This is probably not how they see it. They see it as “sharing” or just living their own life. They aren’t looking for advice most of the time, as I know from experiencing both sides of this. 🙂

  15. avatar

    Excellent Information..
    I am a thinker and have the same problem this information will help alot.

  16. avatar

    In January of this year I stopped being a judgmental person in any way. Positive results came immediately, I became happier in an instant, I became open minded like I never had been so before, and I became a better listener.

    I have always been a thinker, and have been criticised many times for failing to show empathy, and that’s because it fails to come naturally to me, and now I have some idea why. I’m glad I came across this piece as it now gives me further food for thought.

    Many thanks.

  17. avatar

    So well done and so right on. I am a physician. My job is giving people advice and usually it’s about things they don’t want to do. Or things they know they should do but have not been able to make the change. Especially since my own breast cancer diagnosis, the focus of my practice is lifestyle medicine, which is, of course, all about habits and getting people to make healthy change. Most of the time, it is not new information. Instead, the challenge is to identify and overcome the barriers to change that is most meaningful.

  18. avatar

    These are excellent steps and very aligned with what we are taught as professional coaches. I’m guessing that like me, you may also be an INTJ woman? That is the pink unicorn! Such a great combination of skills, when you learn to incorporate the emotional with the analytical.

    • avatar

      INTJ – nailed it.

  19. avatar

    You put what I do into words! Thank you! I used to think I was too empathetic but there may be no such thing in business.

  20. avatar

    Well… That explains why my last relationship went up in flames. 🙂

  21. avatar

    Thanks Darya – great post.

    I’m the consummate thinker! Always being confused why some people just didn’t get it!

    However lately I’ve been trying to be a better listener but maybe I still don’t hear the right “feeling” words or ask “why” enough times. Thanks for the advice.

  22. avatar

    Darya…you absolutely hit the nail on the head…you know that nail that is rammed into my head that I just want my husband to listen to me vent about…not try to remove or fix?

    It’s not about the flipping nail!

    I LOVE that video, and refer to it in my epic guide too because it really hits the idea home.

    It’s interesting though because that video perpetuates the stereotype that ALL men are thinkers and women are feelers; which is obviously far from the truth. We’ve got you, the pink unicorn, to prove it, and other pink unicorns are emerging from evergreen forest in the comments too.

    I am a hardcore FEELER though and with your well-written and actionable article, I have shifted my perception of my husband. I can’t thank you enough!

    For years I have been just telling myself that he is an emotionally stunted cyborg. He isn’t…he is just a THINKER!!!

    I am excited because not only am I aware of this and know I’m not alone in this situation, I can now share this article with HIM so he might be able to bone up on his empathy skills. Boo-yah! Plus I can be more understanding of him as well.

    Btw…your examples. Did you hide in my pantry and take notes. Seriously woman…

    Whenever I go to him about something stressful, hurtful or even amazing in my life, I just want to share in the experience of it; know that he cares, hears me and validates my feelings.

    Do ya know what I get?

    Husband: “Just do/be XYZ. Problem solved! No need to thank me baby. *Finger gun and an eye wink*”

    Diana: Umm…thank you? I want to throat punch you right now you heartless, non-feeling bleep-ity bleep!

    Latest example:

    Diana: “Ok, I know I’ve gained some weight, but I’m going to lose it!”

    Thinker hubster: “Ok. But how are you going to do it?” Followed by a lecture on how I need to move more and eat less (as he pops chocolate in his mouth I might add).

    Thanks again Darya and congrats on your website. Your content is killer and I just signed up for your list. 😀

    • avatar

      Same here Diana, I too thought about that “it isn’t about the nail” video while reading the article. Loved the post Darya!

  23. avatar

    Darya Rose… star IWT student?! How long did she take the course. You mean good friend of you and Tim, don’t you… I hate that you try to fool us

    • avatar

      I took Zero to Launch a year and a half ago and it is 100% the reason I now have a thriving online business. I’m also a RBT member. I’ve only met Ramit once, when he was nice enough to give me some business advice. Thank you for this opportunity, Ramit!

    • avatar

      Of course… Nothing to do with being Kevin Rose’s wife, or a friend of Tim Ferriss…

    • avatar

      Feeling bad about yourself today Sophie?

  24. avatar
    Olivia Lin

    Great post – I’ve been wanting to learn how to be more empathetic! Thanks for sharing this golden nugget.

    Love your content Darya (especially your food-related stuff) – yours (money stuff) too Ramit.

    I’m totally a unicorn (NT/logical female), so I can understand where you’re coming from. For example, one of my guy friends just got out of a relationship. He’s in many of the same classes as his ex. So I told him to go the gym, make more friends in his class that he didn’t know before, and do things that he enjoys. I think he wanted a virtual hug and a cookie. Hell no. Not from me. I told him I could give him practical advice if he wanted it and referred him to another friend if he wanted an emotional cuddy-buddy. He’s slowly but surely moving on. Having a bit of empathy/understanding his wants/fears (all that business stuff Ramit uses on his copywriting) helped me get to him. So both of what you teach works.

    Oh look, I just applied your lesson! Thanks for the help.
    From one robot to another,

  25. avatar

    Wow! I’ve never seen it laid out so well before. I knew that nobody wanted my helpful advice, but I didn’t know about the emotion BS… sorry, content.

  26. avatar

    Great post, thanks for sharing with the Ramit masses (me included)! 🙂

    Understanding the (evidence-based!) effective ways to motivate healthy behaviour change is such a HUGE DEAL totally missed by 99.9999999% of the people trying to support/coach/care for others.

    I worked in research/practice to help people quit smoking for several years and our biggest focus was actually training doctors & nurses to stop saying useless sh*t like “You should really quit smoking, don’t you know it’s bad for you?” and “If you cared about your health, you wouldn’t keep smoking.”

    Actually motivating someone to do what deep down they actually want to do is tough, and anyone reading your post will shoot lightyears ahead of all the people who just don’t get it. Health, fitness, finances, dreams, whatever it is other readers are thinking of as they read through your points, they’ll only better serve themselves and their clients. Thank you!!

  27. avatar
    The Roamer

    Thanks Ramit for letting Darya post this was a golden nugget for sure.

    Darya how did you ever get through ZTL before developing this skill. I can see now it has been a major stopping point in my progress in the program. I couldn’t keep the conversation flowing during the research phase because I always jumpped into the solution.

    This is so motivating and I excited to go back and try that module again.

    Ramit I really think you should link to this article during the research and validation part. I’m sure you have lots of thinkers purchasing your products and maybe this has been a big thorn in their sides too.

  28. avatar

    Thinker here. I noticed that this article ended with no solution or even advice that addresses the initial issue (lady wanted advice on how to lose fifteen pounds). I’m horribly confused. As an individual who struggles with being empathetic towards others, which problem do I give advice for, the weight loss or the husband who won’t eat her healthy food? Should I give advice on both? Would that make me seem overly judgmental? Like, do I give advice or just sit there and agree/mirror them? Also, which issue is more important? The initial problem or the underlying one?

  29. avatar
    Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD

    Nice distinction between thinkers and feelers. In some worlds this concept is known as theory of mind, and refers to a capacity to intuit another’s experience. And while active listening and connecting with someone’s core emotion are critical features of offering advice, there are often not enough.

    Missing in this discussion is an individuals readiness and willingness to change–even when someone is paying for advice. Too many well meaning coaches and health professionals make the mistake of offering advice without considering ambivalence–the often hidden or underlying beliefs, motives, assumptions and fears that keep someone from making change. Motivational interviewing techniques provide effective tools to bridge this gap.

    The goal of MI is for the coach or clinician to offer support and guidance as someone explores and ideally resolves their own ambivalence, and then uses great discrimination to provide information and/or advice when the client is ready and willing to hear it–a very different process than the typically mode of giving advice via personal testimony or expert posturing.

    Most practitioners find effective MI not so easy to execute, mostly because it means the advice giver doesn’t get to short circuit the process with the solution. The focus stays on the person seeking change, and that is why it is so effective.

  30. avatar

    Ramit masterpost on deepsocket* persuasion to feelers

    In other words, feelers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Zone out while delivering patient empathetic elicitation and mirroring, then reengage brain to give the advice payload. Annoying and stupid but true.

    Side benefit – it is theoretically conceivable that you may not already know everything, so this helps prevent the horrifying possibility of Being Wrong.

    *Deep eye sockets and low digit ratio = thinker not feeler. Especially true with parietal rather than occipital dominant brainmass.

    NB: This comment is unhomodoxically insane and should be completely disregarded by everyone. To counteract possible infection, immediately watch three hours of daytime television whilst binging on attractively packaged LowFat processed vegetable oil products.

  31. avatar

    Great article and fits well with what I’m learning lately about life coaching and health and wellness coaching. Very effective books by Arloski, Gary Collins, and Tony Stoltzfus. They recommend waiting for the client to self determine a way ahead. Being a T myself and I’ve experienced the roadrunner effect from both sides. It takes great patience but that moment when they figure it out for themselves is priceless.

  32. avatar

    Great article! I think this is key to reaching people and developing that real and human connection first. I love your website by the way-so many great tips! SO glad I found it!

  33. avatar

    Like you Crystal, I used to facilitate communication workshops. You always teach what you most need to learn! And just like Darya’s steps, when handling difficult situations like aggression, I taught: 1. Listen without interrupting, 2. Reflect understanding of feeling and content, 3. Ask for specifics, 4. Summarise, and 5.”Before we handle that is there anything else?” It always gave me fantastic results

  34. avatar
    Laura Beth

    This is very helpful information. I plan to re-read it in entirety. These are crital concepts to succeeding in any walk of life because if you can’t relate to someone, you certainly can’t connect with them.

    Thanks for the insight.

  35. avatar

    I grew up in an emotionally unhealthy home and was never given empathy; in fact, I was always accused of being way to “overly emotional.” So, even though I was probably originally a “feeler,” I became a “thinker.” Now that I read this post, I understand that it’s actually created a lot of obstacles for me — not because there’s anything “wrong” with being a thinker but because being one is uncommon and I don’t relate to feelers very effectively. Thanks so much for the insights.

  36. avatar

    its hard to convince people that you can help them and they will get the result if they follow what you are saying.
    You have provided some really though provoking tips which I need to implement. Understanding the core emotion and relate to it show understanding is I think the best part through which one can trust you and later on, you can show them a path and they will definitely follow you.

    Thanks again for this article. It’s a pure value post. 🙂

  37. avatar
    Davide Di Giorgio

    After 10 years as a teacher in public education, I really learned this lesson – probably the hard way! I always say when I hear someone dispensing advice, ‘Nobody asked, and nobody cares’… Truly. One of the major paradigm shifts for me happened when I trained in a method called Collaborative Problem Solving (Dr. Stuart Ablon) where you essentially help the ‘student’ discover, identify, and plan to resolve their own issue/problem/conflict (with guidance). And so, all of a sudden, there’s no advice to give, only a conversation where you hold space for someone to voice an area they are experiencing a deficit in, but may not know it. It’s kind of like the ‘sales conversation’ – where if you pitch too soon, you lose the sale!