In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about encouragement vs advice and the importance of encouragement.

This episode comes after a recent tweet by Hiten about the power of encouragement and the impact it can have on the person who is being encouraged. 

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the definition of encouragement, why this tweet resonated strongly with Steli, the best thing we can do for other people when it comes to giving advice and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:39 Why this topic was created.

01:13 What prompted Hiten to share this thought.

03:04 How we really can’t do much to get somebody else to do something.

03:42 What people tend to care about.

04:03 How Hiten hardly does anything with great advice he gets.

04:59 The best thing we can do for other people.

06:00 Why this tweet resonated with Steli.

06:30 The definition of encouragement.

06:41 How Steli typically sees encouragement.

3 Key Points:

  • We really can’t do much to get somebody else to do something
  • You don’t really care about my opinion and that’s ok.
  • Some of the best advice I’ve gotten, I haven’t done anything with.


Steli Efti: Hey, everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And, this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: Today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about encouragement versus advice. And here’s why we want to talk about this. It’s because you’d recently tweeted about it, Hiten. You had a few really interesting things to say about the power of encouragement and how the advice you were giving to people, how potentially the impact of that advice was more the encouragement that you were giving people versus just the pure advice itself. I responded really strongly when I read that. Probably… Well, I’ll get to that a bit later. There’s probably a few biases or things going on on my end, why that really stood out. But I wanted to unpack that. I saw that a lot of people actually responded to this tweet. So first and foremost, what prompted you sharing this thought or having this thought and talking about the difference between encouragement and advice and the importance of encouragement?


Hiten Shah: So most writing, whether it’s tweets or blog posts have been marinating in your head for a while, right? That’s just usually what it is. I mean, they might feel impulsive at the time, especially if it’s a tweet, but generally they marinate for a while. So one thing is, I mean, just like you, I’ve given a lot of advice in my life, or what I thought was advice, to the point of the tweet. And I was actually in LA, I was speaking to a bunch of product people in LA. And someone came up to me after and said… Well, she also emailed me after. So I’ll share the line from the email that’s relevant. She said, “As I told you in person, I had been feeling less motivated than usual. And since your discussion, I’ve been back to my jazzed/motivated itself. So thank you for that.” And I don’t know what I did. I was just speaking. So I gave a presentation. Actually, I was speaking for a while that day, but the two things I did she saw where, I gave a presentation and I moderated a panel back to back. And for whatever reason, that’s what she said. And she also said, “It was an amazing meeting,” and amazing all caps. So this was the latest event that happened. I didn’t actually give her any advice except whatever she heard from the presentation and the panel. And I’ve asked people in the past about my advice, more recently, people that I’ve given a lot of advice to or I’ve known for a while and gotten their feedback on it. And I think we really can’t do much to get somebody else to do something. We just can’t. And that’s a hard thing for some of us who give advice. It’s probably even a hard thing for people who receive advice, right? Like, hey, I can’t do anything for you. Like straight up, I can’t do anything for you. I can’t make you do something that’s right for you or wrong or whatever because it’s just going to be my opinion. You don’t really care about my opinion, and that’s okay. That’s totally fine. You care about yourself, you care about what you’re struggling with, you care about what you need to do, and that’s it. And at best, if you’re somebody who I am really good friends with or is my best friend or whatever you want to use, I’m really close with, I might weigh your feedback, your opinion, your advice a little bit more or maybe a lot more. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to do anything about it. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten, Steli, I haven’t done anything with.


Steli Efti: Oh, you’re probably the only person like that. The rest of the world acts on the best advice. The best advice, Hiten, obviously we are acting on it.


Hiten Shah: And I’ve had an instance recently where someone was giving me advice for over a year and I should’ve just listened. I just should have listened. It would have prevented so much if I just listened. But I didn’t. I should’ve listened. They told me this advice repeatedly, very compassionately every time I brought up my problem, I didn’t listen. And so a lot of this comes from like, oh, we’re not going to listen to advice. This is not how we’re wired. Right? And so the best we can do for other people, I would say, in the context of advise or context of being around them is just be encouraging. So the tweet was, “Encouragement is more important than advice.” And then I went on to explain this, but I didn’t necessarily explain it in the way I just did to you because this is a podcast and it’s more intimate, and you and I are talking about it and you brought it up because apparently it struck a nerve. So I’d love to hear kind of what nerve it struck and what your thoughts are. But this is something that’s been on my mind for a while now.


Steli Efti: That’s beautiful. So I love that you shared this, and this is one of the reasons why we have this podcast is because you and I think about similar topics often very differently at first, but not really at all once you dig a bit deeper. But the reason why it stood out to me is because I do feel like I have… I feel bad about not feeling like I’m that encouraging lately. And with lately, I mean last couple of years. So when I read that I was like, would I say or describe myself as somebody that’s encouraging? And listen, not really. But then the other thing that I did that I learned from you is, I looked at the dictionary definition of encouragement. It was actually, at first I missed it, but then when I read it again, it stood out to me because the definition here, at least that Google spits out is, “The action of giving someone support, confidence or hope.” And so my definition, I think, when I hear the word encouragement, I always feel about somebody that’s telling people nice things, right, or positive things. Independently, oh, you can do it, this is going to work out. I believe in you. You are special. Like that kind of a thing. And when I think about it in that framework, I’m like, that’s not me at all. Like I’m actually very discouraging. I’m not telling you a lot about people that everything will be fine and just think positive and the world is going to… Things are going to be really nice. But when I read this, the dictionary definition, the act of giving somebody support, confidence or hope. I’m like, yeah, all right. Under this definition, I am probably encouraging to many, at least from the feedback that I’m getting. And so there’s some kind of an internal… I do feel like I’ve accumulated a bad conscious about not being more positive with people. I do feel like I can be very harsh. I think I can be just setting very high standards, I can be pushing people really hard. But at the same time, I constantly get the feedback that people do get a lot of support from me. So that’s something that the definitely checks off in my list. Do I support a lot of people? Yes. Do I try to help a lot of people? Yes. And a lot of people tell me that they get confidence or hope from consuming my content, listening to me or talking to me. But there was this, I think there was this interpretation that I had that encouragement was like maybe being overly positive and that didn’t fit with me. And I was like, maybe, I don’t know, maybe I need to be more positive. Maybe I need to be a little bit nicer. So I responded strongly to your tweet because I felt like I’m not living up to it and there’s maybe a missed opportunity. That’s really what stood out to me at first.


Hiten Shah: I think it’s the way we about it, right? I used to just pour on advice because I tend to be pretty intuitive about what somebody should do, right, or what I think they should do. It’s not even what I think. It’s what they should do. Right? What the most rational, pragmatic, logical thing is, I used to be able to get past my emotion or their emotion. This is much easier to do when you’re helping other people. And what I realized is they come to me, they want advice, but at the end of the day, they want the definition of encouragement. They want support, confidence, and hope, right? If they’re in a really crappy situation and they just need to go through it, they need hope, right? If they’re in a place where they don’t know if what’s going to happen next, they can do or they can achieve, they need confidence, right? And if they’re going through something legit, like emotionally tough, they need support, right? And it’s the best thing we can do to influence somebody, in my opinion at this point after struggling with this, is encouraged them. And that doesn’t mean we don’t give our advice. That doesn’t mean we don’t do any of that. That just literally means that when we speak to each other, we can provide more encouragement and less prescriptive advice like you should do this or you should do that. And encouragement comes in the form of just listening and having compassion for whatever journey they’re going on. Because a lot of times advice is like, oh, I know what they should do, I know what they should do. But you lack compassion for what they’re going through. Like you’re not actually listening, you’re not actually paying attention to their emotion. Sometimes what I’ll do is I’ll mimic and reflect back on, are you feeling like this? Because it sounds like you’re feeling like this, right? And that’s really helpful because then I’m not sitting there like, oh this is like… I’m not ignoring their feelings. I know that sounds weird, but that’s really powerful. And sometimes the words people use, some folks don’t like to speak of their feelings. So the words people use can give you a clue as to how they’re feeling. And then when you ask them, hey, are you feeling like this? They’ll open up more and they’ll actually talk to you in a more real way related to how they’re feeling. Surprise, surprise. And so, yeah, I think this is a big deal. There’s now more advice than ever. A lot of the advice is in blog posts and tweets and things like that. There’s encouragement in those places as well, don’t get me wrong, but when we’re one-on-one with people, I think that we can get to another level and just focus on being compassionate for their journey, their situation, whatever it may be. Whatever kind of problem they have, whether it’s a really tough personal problem or a really simple business problem, whatever it may be, let’s take it up a notch and I would say, be more encouraging, be more compassionate, spend more time listening to people and don’t rush to give them answers because that’s honestly not what they need or what they’re usually looking for.


Steli Efti: I love it. It’s such a beautiful way to end this podcast. So that’s a little bit of an action, a call to action from Hiten for all of us. And maybe just to double click on that in a different way before we wrap up. One is how can you be more encouraging to others because that really can make a big difference. But also ask yourself, who’s been really encouraging to you lately? Who’s been somebody that’s really given you hope, support, and confidence? Maybe today, maybe right now is the time to let them know. Tell them thank you or find more time to spend with them because people that are really encouraging should be a big part of your life or a bigger part of your life. You should give them more of your time because they’re really, really making a difference. So yeah, let’s all try to be more encouraging to others and let’s try to create a positive reinforcing feedback loop. So when we do receive real encouragement, we let those people know. That’s it from us for this episode.