Why We Don’t Take Advice


Why do we resist taking advice? In Software Architect Bootcamp, Raphael Malveau and Thomas J. Mowbray, Ph.D. write about the friction around giving and getting advice.

Discouraging Others is Natural
Malveau and Mowbray write:

“When people come up with new ideas, it’s human nature to try to talk them out of it. The tendency occurs because (pychologists say) one tries to help a person avoid being discouraged by discouraging him or her verbally. While this makes no logical sense, most people engage in this behavior unconsciously. It is natural human behavior. In order to change this behavior, it is best to first observe “how things happen.””

Resisting Advice is Natural

“Similarly, taking advice is not natural. It just seems obvious that any mature adult knows how to take advice. But in practice, people seldom do because is it not natural. Normally, everyone thinks that they know what they are doing and they can handle situations with the force of their own will. In a sense, people mistakingly assume they can control the world, even when they are in a brand-new situation where they don’t have a clue “how things happen.””

Brain “In Gear”

“The term brain “in gear” means that a person has achieved a deep state of understanding (about a set of related topics), so that he or she can articulate points very persuasively. A trial lawyer works hard to achieve the state of being “in gear.””

Key Take Aways
Well, we sure don’t set each other up for success between discouraging ideas and resisting advice! On a good note, I don’t think you need to be a trial lawyer to actually reduce friction around giving and getting advice. Here are some keys:

  • Use the disarming technique to deal with pushy approaches. If you are getting advice, and you don’t like to be told what to do, you can use the Disarming Technique.
  • Six Thinking Hats. If you’re stuck, either giving or getting advice, one way to engage the right mindset is to use the technique in Six Thinking Hats. You can basically switch gears by switching hats, where each hat represents a different perspective.
  • Favor questions over advice. If you’re giving advice, leverage questions instead of just telling them what to do. What’s particularly interesting to me here, is that I just read an article that also concluded that people inherently resist advice because change is pain and people don’t like to be told what to do. The bottom line was that if you’re the one giving advice, it’s more effective to ask questions and have people reflect than it is to just give advice. In other words, use a Socratic Method. The key though is intent. If you are manipulative rather than helpful, people see through and you lose rapport.