Advising Do's and Don'ts

The Do's

  1. Appreciate the emotion behind your advisee's words (voice intonation and body language)
  2. Constantly check your understanding of what you hear, not hear what you want to hear
  3. Do not interrupt your advisee
  4. Do not let yourself be distracted during the session
  5. Establish eye contact
  6. Use affirmative head nods
  7. Ask clarifying or continuing questions to demonstrate you are involved
  8. Face your advisee squarely. It indicates that "I'm available to you."
  9. Offer reflections on what the student is feeling, based on advisor's observations. Example: "I sense you are frustrated about this."
  10. Self-disclosure which can support the student's experience. Example: I remember how nervous I was the first time I went to see my advisor."
  11. Indirect leads allow the student to choose the direction of the discussion. Example: "What would you like to talk about today?"
  12. Direct leads help the student further explore a specific area. Example: "Can you tell me more about your thoughts on changing your major?"
  13. Focusing helps the student focus on a particular issue when a number of issues have been discussed. Example: "We're talking about a lot topics, which one is most important for you to work on now?"

The Don'ts

  1. Talking. You cannot listen while you are talking.
  2. Not empathizing with the other person. Try putting yourself in your advisees place so you can see what he/she is trying to get at.
  3. Not asking questions. If you don't understand, when you need further clarification, or when you want to show you are listening, ask questions. Do not however, ask questions which will be embarrassing.
  4. Interrupting. Don't interrupt the other person.
  5. Not concentrating on what's being said. Focus your attention on the words, ideas and feelings.
  6. Not making eye contact. Let the person know you are listening.
  7. Smiling and grunting inappropriately. Don't overdo it.
  8. Showing your emotions. Put your worries and problems outside the meeting. They may keep you from listening. Also, try not to get angry at what the person is saying as it may prevent you from understanding the words or meaning.
  9. Using distractions. Put down papers, pencils, etc as they may distract you.
  10. Reacting to the person. Don't let your reactions to the person influence your interpretation of what is being said. The ideas may be good even though you don't like him/her as a person or the way he/she looks.
  11. Not sharing responsibility for communication. Only part of the responsibility rests with the speaker; as the listener you have an important part. If you don't understand, ask for clarification.
  12. Not using the difference in rate. You can listen faster than the speaker can talk. Use this rate difference to your advantage by anticipating what the speaker may say next, thinking back over what has been said, etc. Rate difference: speech rate is about 100 to 150 words per minute; think rate is about 250 to 500 words per minute.
  13. Not listening for what is not said. Sometimes you can learn more by determining what the speaker leaves out or avoids as you can by listening to what is said.
  14. Not listening to how something is said. Sometimes we concentrate too hard on what is said that we miss the importance of the emotional reactions and attitudes of what has been said.
  15. Antagonizing the speaker. Arguing, criticizing, taking notes, not taking notes, etc. may cause the person to conceal ideas, emotions and attitudes. Adapt to the speaker.
  16. Not listening for the student's personality. One of the best ways to discover information about someone is to listen to him/her talk. You can begin to understand their likes, dislikes, motivations, values and what makes them tick.
  17. Jumping to assumptions. They can get you into trouble when trying to understand another person. Don't assume they use words in the same way you do; that they are telling a lie because they avoid looking you in the eye; or they are distorting the truth because what they say does not agree with what you think.
  18. Making hasty judgments. Wait until all the facts are in before judging.
  19. Identifying type of reasons. At times it is difficult to sort out appropriate and inappropriate reasoning when listening. However, it is important that a listener make every effort to learn to spot faulty reasoning when heard.

Last Updated: 7/31/12