One activity we humans love to participate in is advice seeking. We’re more than happy to ask for advice, neurotically mull over competing sets of advice, and eventually take advice from someone. Then, down the road, the kvetching begins.
Let’s tackle asking for advice. Why, after all of the life experience you have piled up in your favor, do you feel compelled to ask advice? Sure sometimes it’s a humble brag – you just don’t know if you should buy the Mercedes or the Ferrari, you don’t know which Ivy League college to accept to (since they all accepted you – except for Cornell but who likes them anyway?), you can’t decide whether to keep dating the blonde hottie or the brunette hottie, etc. That’s cool. All of us need some positive attention now and then and most of us ask for advice when life is bad so asking when life is good can be a small celebration with our friends. But why the endless asking? Don’t we ever learn to trust ourselves? Don’t we really already know the most viable alternative deep deep down inside ourselves?
I would say yes. We do. And most of the time we’re asking for advice because we; 1) don’t really like the answer we already have and hope someone will provide an alternative (rarely happens), 2) don’t want to have to take responsibility for what we want to do next even though we know it’s not the best solution; 3) honestly don’t believe we have enough information to make an informed decision, or 4) really need some strong support but aren’t sure how to ask for it.
When you find yourself constantly asking for advice, take a step back. Think about what is happening in your life and determine the motive behind your advice-asking activity.
- If you aren’t really liking the answer you’ve given yourself, don’t reject it. Instead of asking new advice of everyone – perhaps you should reframe your query. Create the best solution that you can and then, instead of seeking general out-of-the-blue advice, ask only questions that can take your solution one step further down the road.
She used to come to me and spend hours asking ‘what if’ questions; trying to get tons of advice. Most of my advice was bad because she always saved a red herring for last. We never solved anything and I found myself ignoring her phone calls more and more often. She was a hard friend to have and her problems weren’t even that earth shattering. Then one day we went out for drinks and something was different. She said, ‘this is a problem I’m having. This is what I’ve decided to do about it – what do you think? Can you see a problem with my plan? Have I forgotten anything?’ We actually had a very productive conversation and I think she finally went away with some advice she could actually use.
- If you really don’t want responsibility for what you’re planning to do, suck it up. Even if you can later shoot your best friend a recriminating gaze and say, “Well, you were the one who suggested I do this” you both know that in your heart you only did what you were willing to do.
She was upset and seeking advice because her husband was constantly cheating on her. One of her comforters was a male friend who was extremely sympathetic. One night he kissed her and she pulled away. She asked all of her other friends what she should do. Most advised her to go back to her husband and try to work things out and to quit talking to the Male Friend. One friend said, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I guess.” And she had an affair. Soon the lover left her and her husband, discovering the affair, also left. She spent the next decade blaming her Goose Friend for destroying her life with bad advice.
- If you really don’t have enough information to make an informed decision quit asking for advice and, instead, seek more information.
She’d been offered 2 very different jobs. She wanted them both and had no idea how to decide which offer to accept. After agonizing over it for hours and spending copious amounts of time asking friends to vote on which job she should take, I advised her to move in a different direction. She began to research the companies and quietly inquired regarding the workplace satisfaction of her prospective peers. The answer became clear when a friend of a friend was able to tell her the Manager from Job A had destroyed the careers of several people in the past 5 years simply because they did not see eye to eye on religious issues. Suddenly her choice became clear.
- If you find yourself asking for advice a lot, listen to yourself. Are you asking for advice or is it really support you need because you know what you need to do and need some good old fashioned help. Take a step back and figure out exactly what you need and, instead of asking for advice, ask for help. (This is one of those red flags you can identify as a friend. If you have a friend who keeps asking for advice over and over on the same issue, she may be asking for support that you can provide.)
Every time we went out to lunch she would start in on her bad marriage. She needed advice, she wasn’t sure what to do – she was in a terrible marriage and I had no idea what she should be doing: I’d never been married! Then one day it dawned on me – this girl needs help! I offered to borrow my dad’s truck and move her stuff out of her house that weekend. I will never forget the gratitude on her face. She started to cry and said, “I’ve been asking for help from everyone and you are the only person who has offered to help me.”
Moving your life forward can be a challenge. If you find yourself needing a life coach, drop us a note. We’re here for you.