Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ask for Advice

Some people do not like to ask for advice. The same people are seriously averse to taking advice when it is offered.

Perhaps they believe that asking for advice will make them look weak. If they need advice that must mean that they do not know how to do the job.

Or else, they believe that they should always rebel against authority. Taking advice from someone else feels to them like selling out.

Or else, they believe in their own independence and autonomy.  Taking advice would compromise their monadic existence and undermine their belief that all knowledge is innate.

As it happens, New York Magazine explains, people who ask for advice gain more respect than people who prefer to make their own mistakes.

Melissa Dahl reports on the latest research:

Across five studies, a research team led by Harvard Business School’s Alison Wood Brooks finds that people think better of others when they ask for advice — mostly because people really love to give advice. Being asked for advice seems to give us a self-confidence boost, which in turn enhances our opinion of the advice-seeker, Brooks and colleagues write in the paper, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Management Science.

The data are one thing. The interpretation is quite another.

Apparently Brooks believes that people whose advice is solicited receive an ego boost that causes them to think better of the person who is asking for advice.

Dare I say, there are other ways to interpret the data.

First, an individual who asks advice is demonstrating humility. He is not a know-it-all.

Second, an individual who asks advice knows his place. He respects the experience and authority of his superiors.

Third, an individual who asks advice knows when he does not know. Someone who refuses to ask for advice doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

And finally, when you ask someone for advice you allow him to show benevolence toward you. If benevolence is a virtue, as I would have it and as Freud would not, then allowing someone to practice it is a good thing.

What else are you going to do with the wisdom you acquired through age and experience? You can’t take it with you.

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

I'm not sure I directly ask for advice very often, but I will express a problem of predicament I'm looking at, especially in relationships, and if someone offers (unsolicited) advice I always listen. If I can avoid a decision, I seem to create an inner voice who advocates for that advice, while I keep testing reality and perceptions against it.

Advice is actually very interesting, especially if you can detach yourself, like how strange it is when you read a book and feel certain you know what a character should do, mainly a sort of assertiveness, but later reflect in my own life with a similar predicament, I wonder why that great advice doesn't seem so great any more, and see its because I feel vulnerable exposing something important to me that others might not understand or dismiss.

Seeing those two sides also gives perspective when I feel compelled to give solicited or unsolicited advice to another, and it's really hard to reconnect to that personal fear and imagine what my obvious advice sounds like to them.

The biggest POOR advice I notice is about relationships, and people with lots of broken past relationships are SO SURE other people also need to break their relationships when things are hard. Its so often "rationally sound" advice, but advice that has no heart, and no interest in wholeness. So its good to listen, but maybe you can hear the other person's brokenness in their advice before you take it as gospel truth.