Why Is It Easier to Give Advice Than to Take It?

This post was originally published on April 21, 2014. I will be back with new material in the first week of January.

285px-Person-exclaiming.svgA fascinating conversation on this topic sprung up on Twitter over the weekend. It seems to be much easier to give other people advice than to receive it. Why is that?

I think there are several reasons why this might be so.

 Talk Is Cheap. It’s always going to be easier to tell someone else how to live than to get into those habits ourselves. I also suspect that talking about something that is good for you makes some people feel like they’re taking a step in the right direction. If they can discuss it, maybe they’ll also be able to convince themselves to finally do it regularly.

Being Right Feels Great. It takes a humble person to admit when he or she is wrong, but it takes an even more humble person to resist the urge to make a big deal about it when they’re proven right.

We Think It’s Helpful. Whether or not this is true varies widely from one situation to the next. I honestly do believe that most people have good intentions most of the time, though.

We’ve Made the Same Mistakes. Some people seem to have a very difficult time allowing others the same freedoms they enjoyed when they were younger. This isn’t always a bad thing, of course, but there is a big difference between sharing what you’ve learned the hard way and trying to control the lives of other adults.

Readers, what do you think? Have I missed anything?




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6 Responses to Why Is It Easier to Give Advice Than to Take It?

  1. Michael Mock

    I’d throw out one more: we learn best from experience. It would be nice if we could learn from other people’s experiences, but our ability to do that is somewhat limited. I think everybody has something that (despite all the good, helpful, and correct advice in the world) they had to learn the hard way. Making mistakes is a vital part of the process of growing up, I think.

  2. Jesse Schoch

    The advice giver is also not usually emotionally invested in the situation and does not have to sort through anything but the facts.

  3. Great post, Lydia. As you’ve probably realized I delight in phrasing questions that are open to multiple interpretations. This was one such. You see, I really do delight in hearing other people give me advice, while I try and take pains to avoid giving them mine. I’m free with my opinion, but not with advice.
    This begs the question, why? Essentially, I see the problem with advice as being one of experience. We cannot hope to know the experience the other person has had, unless we’ve lived in their shoes, and we never do that. This means that any advice we give is biased toward our experience, not theirs. The exact same thing applies to advice we receive. So, while I enjoy listening to advice {Which it provides me with an enormous amount of information on the experiences of the one giving the advice}, the actual advice itself is seldom applicable to my experience.

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