Some people know how to take advice. Others do not.
Those in the first category will invariably do better on the job and in life than will those in the second.
It stands to reason. Anyone who is sufficiently humble to know that he does not know everything will do better than someone who is so arrogant that he thinks he knows it all.
Psychiatrists diagnose those who refuse to take advice to be narcissists. The diagnosis rings true, but it needs to be qualified.
For decades now therapists have been encouraging people to introspect, to get in touch with their feelings, to follow their bliss… thus, to become more self-absorbed, more self-involved and more narcissistic.
Therapists often pursue a political and ideological agenda, regardless of whether it is best for their patients. They encourage their charges to defy authority, to rebel against experts, to disrespect age and experience, to assert their independence and autonomy.
This suggests that medical science or psychological science is telling us all not to take advice. It also denigrates anyone who would dare ask for advice.
People who have suffered the influence of the therapy culture do not understand that refusing to take or to ask for advice makes them look incompetent, self-absorbed and disrespectful.
Therapy has convinced people that when they ask for advice they are looking subservient and dependent.
When someone faces a difficult dilemma, he might well repair to his neighborhood therapist. In many cases he will find someone who refuses to offer advice.
If your therapist feels your pain but does not offer advice he is telling you that it is futile to try to find a way to resolve your dilemma by taking action in the world. He is rendering you more passive.
If the prospective patient makes the “mistake” of consulting with a therapist who is willing to offer advice, he might very well reject it out of hand and reject his therapist for lacking empathy.
It’s one thing to diagnose narcissism. It’s quite another to encourage and foster it.
When therapists are not encouraging you to become more narcissistic they are bemoaning the fact that your narcissism is so intractable. They might even believe that it has been caused by traumatic events from your childhood.
As long as they are encouraging you to be more narcissistic, they should dispense with the effort to recall the past and turn their attention to the old saying: Physician, heal thyself!
If you want to overcome your narcissism, you should develop personal habits that bespeak the opposite of narcissism. You might start thinking in terms of “we” or “you” over “I.” You might start doing unto others as you would have others do unto you. You might perform a good deed for someone else every day.
Or else, you should start learning how to take advice.
Begin by asking for advice. If your gut or your bliss is directing you to do this or that, you do well to run your plan by someone who is older and wiser.
Taking advice does not mean doing what you are told. You might hear a piece of advice and recognize that neither it nor your prior inclination is best.
Surely, you can take the advice as given. But, if the discussion causes you to think up a new and better plan--better than both plans-- you are free to follow it.
If you seek out advice, you can take it or you can use it to formulate a better plan. Taking advice means that you will not be following your initial inclination, your gut or your bliss.
If you are starting out on your career, you should always give full consideration to the views of those older and wiser than you. Often they will offer advice, whether you like it or not. If they do not do so, ask for it.
If you actively ask for advice you are humbling yourself. If you have only been on the job for a month, no one will expect that you know everything... yet.
Also, when you ask for advice you show respect for the other person, for his age, his wisdom and his experience.
If you do not respect people, you have no right to expect that they will respect you.
By asking for advice, you are striking a blow against your narcissistic tendencies.
Better yet, when you ask for advice, you will look smarter than the guy down the corridor who believes that he must make his own mistakes.
New research has shown that people who ask for advice are considered to be smarter and more competent.
There is no special virtue to making your own mistakes. It is best to avoid avoidable errors when it is at all possible.
Of course, this only works when you ask someone for advice about something in which he or she possesses expertise. Asking an auto mechanic for advice on how to cook lasagna does not make you look exceptionally bright. Asking a chef for advice on an oil change does not make you look very smart.
Naturally, some people ask for advice because they want to flatter their superiors. Some people follow advice because they have told—by people like me—that’s it’s the right thing to do.
None of it matters. It’s better to ask for advice for the wrong reason than not to ask for advice at all.
If you are not in the habit of asking for advice, if your narcissism is such that you find it distasteful to ask for advice, if you feel like you are selling out and making yourself look weak… then your first effort to ask for advice will not feel very good or very right. It might feel fake and insincere, as though you are acting like a sycophant.
If you ask for advice and act as though nothing has changed, then you are, by definition, being an insincere flatterer. If you ask for advice and then take it you are being sincere. This is true even if you do not believe that the advice is very good.