How to stop giving advice

Business Productivity

Through one fantastic article — How I Learned to Stop giving Advice — I found another very interesting article that detailed something called the “Gestalt Language Protocol” (orig). Unfortunately, the original article is no longer online, but I did find a cached version in Google. I’m posting it below for the benefit of others:

Gestalt Protocol comes from Gestalt psychology. Practicing this protocol is a discipline that has far-reaching effects on the quality, operation and value derived from a Forum group. The seven points of the protocol are difficult to absorb and practice for new Forum groups. They are however a key component in creating a safe environment where members will feel comfortable sharing openly. Because this protocol can be difficult, we recommend that new groups focus on numbers 1, 2 and 5 in that order of priority.

  • Speak from your own experience rather than give advice.
  • Use “I” statements not “one” or “you,” but “I.”
  • Speak in specifics not generalities. If I were to say, “all men are workaholics” that would be a generality. Instead if I were to say, “my dad and my partner are workaholics” that would be specific.
  • Ask “How” not “Why” to prevent defensiveness. If I were to say “Why didn’t you fire your bookkeeper when you found out he was steeling from you?” that maybe attacking. Instead if I were to say, “How did you come to the decision as to whether or not you should fire your bookkeeper.”
  • Make a statement to declare your position before you ask a question.
  • Say, “I feel” to mean real feelings like sad, mad or glad, rather that saying “I feel you are.” Forum is a uniquely personal experience where emotions are as important to the process as the facts. By asking someone how do you feel, we attempt to evoke the emotions in the person that are perpetuated by the situation. Using feel in the right context will allow for deeper presentations.
  • Replace “I don’t know” with “I won’t decide” or “I don’t want to say.”

That seems like a pretty good primer. I also found some more material on the matter here (pdf).

The Gestalt Language Protocol comes from Gestalt psychology. Practicing this protocol affects the quality, operation and value of a roundtable. While the protocol is often difficult to practice for new roundtables, it helps create a safe environment for members to share openly.

Here are some components of this protocol:
1.  Speak from experience rather than give advice. By sharing experiences, we end up with data that promotes better decision­making.  Sharing experience also allows for  bonding and cohesion building in a group.
· Use the past tense.
· Say, “Here’s what worked for me…,” which is far better than making “should
statements” such as “Here’s what you should do…” or starting comments with “I  would.”
· Empathize.  Strive to understand the situation from the presenter’s point of view.
Remember that no one else has to live with the consequences, and what works for  one person will not necessarily work for another.
2.  Ask questions to lower others’ defenses.  Try to explain the purpose of your question
before asking it. Don’t treat the presenter like a defendant.
3.  Share experiences that have both positive and negative outcomes.  This boosts your  credibility and shows you’re able to learn from your mistakes as well as your
4.  Listen well.  Write your thoughts and questions as they arise. This frees up your mind
to listen until it’s your turn to speak.
5.  Paraphrase before you respond.  Confirm what you think you heard before you reply.  This ensures that you respond to what was said, not what you think was said.
6.  Maintain eye contact as you listen to a speaker.


Canada Post suing for providing list of postal codes for free

Canada Legal

Canada Post is suing, the first free canadian geocoder website, for providing a crowd-sourced list of publicly available postal code data.

This idea is absolutely absurd.

Postal codes are simply a tool used for routing, like telephone numbers or internet protocol. Postal code data should be public domain or, at worst, owned by Canadian tax-payers since Canada Post is a crown corporation. Besides, if you were going to enforce “copyright” you should have done it long ago.

I wrap “copyright” in quotes because it is mechanism meant to protect expression in a fixed manner (text, recording, drawing) of an idea; it does not extend to the idea itself, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work. Items that are not protected by copyright include:

Names or slogans
Short phrases and most titles
Methods, such as a method of teaching or sculpting, etc.
Plots or characters
Factual information

Notice that? Factual information. Postal codes are factual information, not expressions of ideas.

Now I can understand what the slimeballs are upset about: they’ve started charging boat-loads of money to licence postal code data as a first-party vendor and, honestly, I’m 100% cool with that.

My issue stems from the fact that is offering crowd-sourced data which, according to the Merriam-Webster, is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

THAT is the difference.

There is no guarantee made by that the data is accurate, nor is it guaranteed actively updated — it is provided as-is.

What Canada Post can provide as a premium service is postal code / geocoding data a “first-party vendor” with guarantees about data quality and updates. Businesses will pay that guarantee. I know, I’ve implemented systems that DO pay those fees because they are an insignificant drop in the bucket when accuracy of data matters.

Don’t be stupid, Canada Post. You’re in the business of delivering the mail, not selling marketing data. Don’t use government money to sue small-time companies for offering a free alternative to your overprices services. There is so much wrong with that, I won’t even begin to point out the flaws.

Give your heads a shake.

LG Smart TVs are incredibly dumb.

Electronics Hardware

Smart TVs are dumb.

There, I said it. Lots of people agree too:

What, exactly, am I talking about?

Here’s an example taken from my own LG 42LS5700 “Smart” TV:

It took approximately 30 seconds for me to complete 2 simple tasks:

  1. Turn on the TV
  2. Change the input (to my PC)

That’s it! Simple, right? Hit the power button, wait a second, then cycle through inputs until you find the right one. Done! Except that LG has over-engineered this common task into a ridiculous procedure that takes an excessive amount of time, effort and attention to complete.

User interaction involved was:

  1. Press power button on remote;
  2. Press either the precariously placed “Q-menu” button at the bottom of the remote [shown] or press the Home button, which takes longer to load;
  3. Click the “Inputs” app on screen*
  4. Waiting for app to load
  5. Select appropriate input**
  6. Done.

* The pointer disappears from the screen at strange intervals. Often the pointer will have disappear just before you manage to click the on-screen button you’re searching for.
** You will have to scroll back from screen of inactive inputs if your last input used is now inactive. (Seriously, wtf LG?)

And this is just one situation!

There are so many broken user experiences with this system it’s baffling that the product made it through user acceptance testing. Maybe before adding more useless “Premiere” content, LG, you should spend time building a better OS experience. Then try to engage the users, and make them want to use “Premiere”. As it stands now, I try to avoid interacting with the “smart” features of my LG TV at all costs!

Anyone else have similar experiences?

Add to the discussion on Hacker News:

Update: I tweeted at @LGUS asking if they had any comment on their Smart TV’s poor performance. Unsurprisingly  their response questioned whether I had contacted LG support. I suppose I could waste my time on the phone, but I don’t see the point. Blogging for commiseration is much more satisfying.