Existential Psychology

Giving Advice Taking Advice

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Why is it so easy to give advice yet so hard to take it? Because when we’re handing out advice we don’t have a stake in the situation. It’s just like that annoying guy at the blackjack table who doesn’t have any money on the line and gets his thrills through telling people who do how they should be playing, calling them out for acting like cowards when they don’t double down or when they don’t hit a possible bust card.

Giving advice is easy because you usually have nothing to lose. Taking advice is hard because you have everything to lose. Things might be bad as they are, but at least they’re known to you. Taking advice means shaking things up, risking the unknown by putting yourself out there in a different way.

We need to be careful about giving advice when we’re not stakeholders in the situation, meaning when we won’t be affected one way or the other by the outcome. Likewise it behooves to always be skeptical of advice we receive from others when they don’t have a stake in our situation. Like we said, if you don’t have any money on the line, talking about the upside of the risky play is easy. .

Of course, to extend our blackjack metaphor, the worst kind of advice you can give or take is when you’re a stakeholder for the opposite side. It would be like the owner of the casino telling you how you should bet. Obviously this happens all the time, like psychiatrists in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies who peddle the company’s newest drug to their clients.

The real question to ask yourself when giving advice is, if I were in this person’s shoes would I really do what it is I’m suggesting, with all the inherent risk and difficulty that goes along with it? And conversely, when receiving advice it’s worth asking yourself if the people giving it put their money where their mouths are, if their lives seem to align with how they are telling you that you should live yours.