Good and bad advice: how to see a difference?


Yoda: see a difference between good and bad advice

People are born with drivers necessary to discover what is good for them and how to master skills to achieve their goals. Then they meet advisers… When we are born, we don’t know how to walk or how to graduate college. Still, we are born to learn how to succeed. If only nobody disturbs, it is certain that we are going to be okay. So giving advice is not needed. Unfortunately, we are instructed firstly how to pee, then how to write an “a”, later who to be and who to marry. Giving advice is not easy. So how to do it to really help?

Let’s consider what is advice. What are situations in which we ask for advice or give it? In general, there must be a person trying to achieve a goal and lacking information necessary to do it. A person who gives healthy advice has this information and is able to share it. There must be also a moment when a person seeking advice directly or indirectly asks for it: if this person is not ready to take advice, the best advice will not help! The distribution of information is crucial: a seeker lacks it and an advisor has plenty of it. Many people give advice not in an optimal way. Let’s consider two most common problems with giving and receiving advice:

We give advice, although no one is asking for advice.

Every day we have to make a number of small and big decisions. Sometimes they are easy, but it happens that we have to choose between two good or two bad options. Then we face decision dissonance: a situation in which a difficult choice consumes a lot of our time and energy.
Sometimes we decide to ask someone else to decide for us, toss a coin or consider somebody’s opinion to enrich our final decision. In such cases people often tell us ”if I were you…” causing a phenomenon called reactance. It is a feeling that someone or something limits our freedom of choice so we need to choose an option different from the advised one. It helps making a choice, but this choice is not very rational.

We give advice, although we lack information.

It happens in two different cases. First of all, people have a natural tendency to give advice more often than it is needed. They instinctively give advice when they encounter somebody experiencing difficulty with making a decision. The second reason people give advice is the fact that people want to feel good about themselves. Giving advice is for many an opportunity to prove that they are knowledgeable, experienced and, after all, helpful. Both of these motivations are not beneficial for people receiving such advice because this can distract them from real objectives.

In general, it is better not to give advice, if it is only possible. If we have to give advice, it is better to ask questions to make somebody needing help discover answers independently. Then such a person can make judgements accordingly. People often think that it is a psychologist’s job to give advice. A good psychologist creates space where a client can activate internal drivers leading to right answers and offers tools to discover them. And it is as simple as that…

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