Taking advice is a skill
6 January 2022
Let’s face it: a lot of advice that turns out to be unmitigated crap.
But it’s fair to ask how that happens – why does some advice fall so short and yet other times turn out to be golden?
Aside from malevolence and deliberate misguidance, when advice doesn’t benefit the receiver, the context of what is being delivered doesn’t match the context of the problem. So the advice is usually created on partial information, and/or the advisor doesn’t understand the complete problem.
So as a thought experiment, think of anytime advice hasn’t worked out, either when you are giving it or receiving it.
If you gave advice that didn’t work, you probably realized that there was a part of the problem that you weren’t aware of or didn’t understand. This usually leads to statements like, “Well, I never would have told you that you should go to the party if I knew your ex’s new husband was going to be there.”
If you received advice that didn’t work, the reasons the advice failed are quite similar – there were things that were part of the problem that the advisor didn’t know, and that didn’t factor into the what the advisor said.
There’s a big difference between asking “Should I go to the party on Friday night?” and “Should I go to the party on Friday night where my ex’s new husband will be?”
And here is the rub: it is your responsibility when asking for advice to be able to clearly and completely communicate what the critical parts of the problem are to anyone who’s offering help. It’s not exactly easy, and sometimes it’s not exactly clear what can solve the problem or what the consequences of a decision will be. (Known unknowns and unknown unknowns.)
This is why taking advice is a skill: it’s challenging to be able to realize and communicate whatever is possible to grasp about your problem to whomever is helping you, and then execute what is needed.
But practicing this, with the help of good questions and attentive listening, will make you skilled in benefiting from getting good advice.
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