Why does giving people advice seldom work? In a nutshell, advice giving usually doesn’t work, and often ultimately backfires. But, to be fair, we all find ways to tell others how to live, we can’t seem to help it. We all have strong points of view and believe that others should do or think as we do. A lot of people are almost too comfortable expressing their views to others, whether they’re interesting or not.
The research shows that whenever someone tells us what to do and how to do it, we respond with a defensive defiance because we want to maximize our personal freedom and decision making. With that awareness we know that telling others what they should do, even if it is reasonable advice, rarely ( if ever ) does it work. But, again you would be hard pressed to accept this a fact by the endless roster of self-help books and advice gurus out here in our world.
If that is fact then what does work? If we want to encourage behavior (or belief) change in others, we need to move away from advice giving (especially when our advice is unsolicited) and toward modeling. In other words, we need to be an example for others rather than telling them what to do. Sound quite simple, and yet we have so many who are not modeling what they teach.
The fantastic research on observational learning ( in conjunction with an understanding of reactive theory ) suggests that while people will resist unsolicited advice and instruction, they will follow the behaviors of others, especially when there appear to be good and reinforcing outcomes from the practices ( or beliefs). What we see here is the old saying which is lead by example, just another straightforward and clear way of expressing that mindset.
When you want to encourage behavior change in the people around you, then model the behavior that you want them to emulate. Once you can do this without giving advice and by keeping your advice -providing advice in check your chances will be better in many ways. Go against your instincts to give advice and be mindful of the words you use. The famous writer “Eric Jong,” had this to say which is the best sage advice given on the giving of counsel; here is what she said” ” Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.”
The profundity of that quote goes beyond depth because of its real meaning. We have all been given both good and bad advice and sometimes a trickier. It could happen that information when it gives you causes more for more questions, and you can’t decide whether to listen or not. When this happens, listen to your gut, then ask for support. Needless to say, consider who is giving you the advice. Getting a second opinion can’t hurt and, take some time to reflect on the information.
We end this article with this, and it relates to what “Eric Jong” said above because it ties in so beautifully. Advice is only useful in one case and one case alone: when a person asks for it. Why do you think that is it? It is because they already have the answer, and if you are a coach or a messenger in any circle your job is to help them to uncover what they already have the answer to embedded deep within, you support discovery, and that is the work.
Stop with advice, Model the answers, help and open up discoveries, share growth.
Until the next time take good care, be and stay well.
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