We all know someone who continuously runs into the same problems over and over. The solution to their troubles seems to be so obvious to everyone but them, and it can be painful to watch!
What if I told you that we can all be that person sometimes?
A reason why it’s so easy to give advice to others is because of the distance we have from their situation. We’re not emotionally involved in the complexity of their reality, so solutions seem much simpler to us. It’s easy to be rational when we’re not the ones facing the problem.
There’s also the component of resisting personal responsibility. We tend to have this bias called the fundamental attribution error, which refers to blaming circumstances to explain our own actions but blaming personality characteristics to explain the actions of others. For example, if you’re having a rough day and you snap at someone, you may be inclined to attribute your behavior to not getting enough sleep, being under a lot of stress, etc. But, if someone else snaps at you, you may be inclined to label them as a rude person.
Fundamental attribution error can explain why what we think others should do can seem so obvious to us but not to them. We may think that the one coworker who is always late should leave their house earlier each day, but when we’re late, we may blame the traffic, our zipper that wouldn’t zip, and the guy who ordered too many items in the Dunkin’ drive-through. Through a lack of accountability, we may be excusing ourselves from taking the advice we need.
Now that we’ve had that wake-up call, let’s talk about how to start taking our own advice:
Best Friend Method: Allow yourself to get out of your head by asking yourself what you would say to a friend in the same situation as you. Say to yourself, “I would advise them to…” as if you’re talking to another person. This can give you some distance from your problem, providing an objective point of view.
Challenge Your Excuses: As mentioned above, we tend to use external circumstances to explain our behavior. Next time you notice yourself saying something along the lines of “I can’t do anything about that because…”, ask yourself if you’re avoiding some kind of personal responsibility. This is not to make you feel bad but to acknowledge any self-sabotage and allow space for the most productive solution.
Welcome Vulnerability: Sometimes, we don’t take our own advice because we’re afraid to do so. The best solution may require stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing through fears/limiting beliefs. The more you can move forward in the face of these hurdles, the more fulfilled you’ll likely feel!
Next time you give someone advice, remember that it’s easier to give advice than it is to take it. Be patient with them and be patient with yourself as you navigate through life’s decisions.
That’s my advice to you. I’ll challenge myself to take it too.