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Take My Advice – Whether You Want It or Not
We’ve all been there. Confused. Unsure. Lost. Enter the know-it-all friend and their well-meaning advice, minus any degrees or letters behind their name. You will be given the key of enlightenment, if you just do what they say. But there’s “exciting” news when it comes to our motivations on dispensing advice to others. Turns out most of us are trying to instill power and control over those around us.
“We conducted a study and learned there’s usually a payoff for the adviser,” explained one of the researchers. “And I would personally recommend that you take this study as a grant-worthy subject that deserves further attention.”
To understand why we do what we do, researchers also looked at the language used by the adviser to the receiver. The more abstract the advice-giver spoke, using broad strokes and no mandatory details, the more the advice-receiver considered and followed the advice. When the adviser got too specific, the advice receiver typically did not follow it.
“So, like, I have this one friend who can not tie her shoes without asking me if she should,” detailed one of the participants. “Like, I totally couldn’t take it anymore, so when she asked me last week what to do about her cheating boyfriend, I simply said, ‘Get rid of him.’ I did not mean she should have him killed. Sorry, Kimberly, but I will not be bailing your ass out of jail.”
This is where it gets really exciting. Researchers discovered when a reward system was attached to the advice, the advice-receivers were much more likely to take it. For example, if a promotion or good grade were the payoff if the advice were followed.
“Here’s what I do when my girlfriend says she needs advice,” said one the lead researcher. “I tell her if she’ll leave me alone so I can work, she can go shopping. Works for us.”
The final prong of the advice giver/receiver relationship is about actual experts in a given field. The more a professional adviser professed 100% certainty for a particular outcome, the less credible he or she seemed. Participants in the study were more likely to follow the advice of confident people with measured guidance, than someone who bragged about their track record.
“I learned this the hard way,” explained another participant. “Years ago there was this stock that was supposed to be a sure thing and make me rich. Damn my parents for not letting spend my Bar Mitzvah money on Google. It’s called gut instinct, people. Follow it and forget about so called advisers.”