The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines advice as, “an opinion or a suggestion about what somebody should do in a particular situation”.
We often seek advice when confused, clueless, or scared
- POV1: My high school exam begins in a week.
- Should I ‘burn the midnight candle’ and focus on my football training and chat with my friends during the day? Or should I get 8 hours of sleep and read during the day, neglect all other activities and risk being seen as a nerd?
- POV2: Victor and I have been close friends for 3 months now. I like him and I want something more.
- Should I tell him I like him and risk being seen as cheap? Or should I wait for him to make the first move while I play hard to get?
- POV3: My Dad and Mum just got separated.
- Should I live with Mum and risk Dad disowning me? Or should I live with Dad and risk Mum feeling I abandoned her?
- POV4: I just got my college degree.
- Should I apply for a job and be certain of a monthly salary and risk having some free time to party? Or should I become an entrepreneur and risk losing all my money if the business fails?
- POV5: I just realized that my religious belief as a Christian creates a division between me and my indispensable business associates with a different religion.
- Should I work with them and risk being called a pagan? Or should I keep my faith and risk my business collapsing?
This sort of dilemma or internal conflict shoves most people into seeking advice from anywhere and anybody they can find
Why do we constantly seek other people’s advice?
Why do people ask multiple people for advice?
We ask friends and family, bombard Google with queries, follow celebrities and influencers on social media all for what?
Maybe their motivational speeches sound nice, or maybe it’s in a bid to avoid failing.
So we seek more advice.
“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.”– Erica Jong
Generally, people seek advice due to one or more of the following reasons;
- To gain clarity: They may be overwhelmed by their emotions and could be inexperienced or not have adequate knowledge of the subject matter. The multiple opinions they get usually have those that are most mentioned which is the likeliest choice because they consider it the obvious accurate suggestion
- To get a counsellor: They want to have someone to go to for advice in the future as (s)he may prove to know better from previous counsel. After doing it a few times, it mostly becomes unnecessary to continuously meet multiple individuals.
- To get confirmation: They want reassurance and a confirmation of their premeditated opinion
- To make a decision: They are indecisive from a plethora of advice they got already
- To get validation: They seek validation as they lack self-confidence. This may be because they failed in the past. As a result, they don’t trust themselves enough to know what’s best.
- To pass blame: They want someone other than themselves to blame if their plans go south
- To outsource thinking:They are too lazy [or genuinely too busy] to conduct research and are used to depending on others for guidance
- To make friends: They may want to turn an enemy into a friend since asking for help or advice also triggers the Benjamin Franklin effect (it is observed that when you ask someone for a favour, the person tends to like you and wants to help you more)
The good thing about all these is that even if you don’t get the right answer, the added perspective is useful in making your final decision. It also helps us not to feel alone when faced with hardship.
But are all these good enough reasons?
Is there any danger in asking for advice?
Journalist: “What is the secret of your success?"
CEO: "Two words."
Journalist:"And, sir, what are they?"
CEO: "Good decisions."
Journalist: "And how do you make good decisions?"
CEO: "One word."
Journalist: "And, what is that?"
Journalist: "And how do you get Experience?"
CEO: "Two words."
Journalist: "And, what are they?"
CEO: "Bad decisions."
“Sometimes we don’t need advice. We just need somebody to listen.”– Unknown
What are the problems if you ask too many advice?
Some advice is good especially if it comes from someone who has been in the same situation as you or an expert in that particular field of concern. This is because it can bring clarity and help to make better decisions, faster.
However, the problems from asking too many advice include;
- Varying circumstances/situations: No two situations are exactly the same. Life is not black or white but rather has many shades to it. Ergo, there is no one-size-fits-all piece of advice.
- Limited knowledge: Some people offer advice to help but may do so without being well knowledgeable about the subject matter or could misunderstand your concern thereby unintentionally misleading you. You know yourself/circumstances best.
- Uncertainties of life: Thry often say, ‘What works for Mr. A may not work for Mr. B.’ Mr. A may be successful as a painter while Mr. B may fail at painting despite his passion for it. But can Mr. B succeed in the future only taking longer than Mr. A? You never know till you try, right? Why not choose (the struggle) by yourself?
- Varying Values and goals: Most people advise you without asking. Your advisor may not have your interest at heart. (S)he may also have conflicting values with you. Wanting to stroke their ego by appearing superior in wisdom to you. Those kinds of people are usually manipulative. Needless to say, advice from such individuals will do you more harm than good.
- Conflicting opinions: This is a major characteristic of multiple inquiries. But does this mean one may be true and the other false? The answer is both; depending on the situation and your values/goals. In whichever case, you may never know which is right due to cognitive dissonance, or its twin, cognitive consonance.
“There are so many ways to kill a rat”– Unknown
“I’d argue that what makes life beautiful is the lack of right or wrong.’-Kimberly Semiglia
How asking multiple people for advice can backfire?
Imagine you have to submit a report in two days. In order to give your best, you begin to seek multiple opinions. Due to the repetition compulsion effect(which may spring from narcissism), the more advice you get, the more people you want to ask [or the more research you want to make online.] Now your time is far spent but you need to contemplate whose advice is best (maybe you need extra advice on that too.)
Not only do you get behind schedule, your energy and time gets reasonably depleted.
“I’ve learned that while I’d be a fool not to stay open to the advice and experiences of the smart, amazing people in my life, I also need to listen to what I have to say.”– Alicia Keys
When you ask multiple people for advice it can backfire because;
- They may begin to see you as incompetent. Judging you to be unskillful and unworthy to be delegated a responsibility. This is usually a result of Fundamental Attribution Error. It indicates that they attribute your actions to your personality and attribute theirs to factors beyond their control. Pointing out errors is a common human trait. While most people do it to help, some do it to degrade others and exalt themselves.
- They may get upset if you don’t follow their advice, especially after soliciting it. This could ruin your relationship with them. Safe to say, they will no longer want to advise you in future. (And the truth is, you simply can’t follow all advice and may not follow any at all in many cases.)
- You can get overwhelmed with which advice to choose. Making you even seek more advice on how to handle that confusion. This will create an awful loop making things more difficult for you.
- Your self-esteem may reduce drastically as you can become increasingly dependent on people for advice.
You see. Making multiple enquiries can further complicate what you want to resolve. Ergo, most times, more is less.
You can’t decide by overthinking. Taking action is more important.
Should you never seek or listen to advice? Of course not.
But you should be careful before you take one.
“The only voice that matters is your own. Don’t lose yourself in the advice of others.”– Unknown
How do you determine good advice? [7 Things To Consider Before Taking An Advice]
That way, if the outcome is positive it will be rewarding. You get to build self-confidence and trust yourself.
If the outcome is negative, you will become more responsible in dealing with consequences by owning up to your mistakes. You can say like Thomas Alva Edison, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I guess you can agree that this feels better than failing by taking someone else’s advice.
Here are a few things to consider before you make that final decision;
- Ensure your advisor cares about you and understands your goals for the decision you need advice on. This will help you identify the ideal source for getting it. Such as an expert/professional, a book, a therapist or a blog that majors in that niche (E.g. you seek personal development and that is why you’re here.) It will reduce the time you spend on outsourcing opinions. There’s a phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect which indicates that people who know less about something tend to ignorantly speak about it with confidence. Consequently, you ideally should seek advice from those who are experienced in the subject matter and have done it many times (not those who love talking about it). For example, while seeking advice on how to be a good footballer from the owner of the bet office near you might be tempting, your best bet would be Jay-Jay Okocha.
- Like Ryan Holiday once said, “Get information, not advice.” Most times, we seek advice because we don’t understand the problem. Asking for information will give you enlightenment that makes your options easier to choose from. Make it clear to your advisor that you want to get some information from them and not advice so they are less likely to get offended when you neglect them. Base your inquiry on data (rather than emotions which can be misleading since it neglects facts.) You can do this by asking specific questions. For instance, rather than ask Jay-Jay, “What do you think I should do about my current football form?”, your question should be, “During your active football career, what did you do to stay at the top of your game and improve your statistics?” Then listen more to “Did you know…” responses. Those are usually informative. For example, rather than listen to, “You have to go to the gym so you can be fit.” A better option is,”Did you know that if you consistently workout you can get really strong and fit? This is why Cristiano Ronaldo is still performing well at 37.”
- Determine the opportunity cost of what you aim to achieve. What risks are you willing to take? When you do this your chances of seeking advice are slim as what you need to do already becomes clearer.
- Pause before you take action. Get rid of confirmation bias by seeking and identifying the pros and cons of the different opinions you get. Trust your instincts and ask yourself, ”Is this something I would advise my loved one to do?”
- Isolate yourself from the problem. Being a soldier in the middle of a shootout and playing a war video game are two different things. The emotional and mental stimulus (be it from joy, sadness, anger, etcetera) can be overwhelming and cause you to make bad decisions. So, go for a walk, listen to music you love, keep away your gadgets entirely, or do whatever works for you.
- Let out the problem-induced emotions by writing them down on paper or saying them out loud (preferably while looking at yourself in a mirror). You should allow yourself to cry or yell. Whichever the case. Obstructing the path of a flowing river will only give it momentum to push through.
- Do not listen to half-baked advice like most motivational quotes which lack context. Every piece of advice should be accompanied by appropriate instances and reasons as to why they should be followed. This is because results from previous experience are crucial. Evaluate your situation to see if such an idea or advice is applicable.
When you do these, you get a clear mind enabling you to make better decisions.
“Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.”– Roger von Oech
Conclusion: Don’t listen to anyone
The best advice is that there is no best advice.
No advice is good or bad in itself but is relative in contrast to different people and situations.
Besides, whether you outsource an opinion or not, you will have to advise yourself on which advice is best for you.
Because at the end of the day, it is you who the result will affect the most. Ergo, the only advice you should take is the one you give yourself.
PS; Everything we just discussed is pointless if you’re unwilling to take action and make a change for yourself.
Whatever it is you settle for, just make sure to do your best.
It’s up to you.
Good luck in all your noble endeavors
I enjoy literary works (especially in the form of books and songs) and learning about human psychology.
I’m also interested in intellectual development, fitness/athleticism, and waste management.