Giving advice can be easy.
— If it’s really bothering you, just talk to him about it.
— You should make sure to negotiate your salary.
— Definitely get a second opinion.
So why don’t we listen to our own words of wisdom?
— My situation’s more complicated, we think.
— I don’t want to give the wrong impression, we reason.
— I don’t have the time, we explain.
Beneath all this rationalizing is a fear of some sort, and it blocks us from embracing what we know, in our gut, to be the right path forward.
Here are 5 ways to take your own best advice:
1. Flip the “but.” When considering our own very reasonable advice, we sometimes react with a fearful “but”: I should get another quote, but I don’t want to offend my friend. I need to call attention to this problem, but my superiors might not understand. Our emotions want to make excuses. Flip those “but” statements by reinforcing your reasoning: I don’t want to offend my friend, but I should get another quote because my budget is really limited and this isn’t personal. My superiors might not understand, but I need to call attention to this problem because if we don’t address it now it will only get worse.
2. Ask your own advice. Before you get advice from anyone else, come up with your own ideas about what to do. Imagine how you’d advise a friend in the same situation. And when giving advice, pause to ask yourself, Have I ever needed to hear this too? Do I follow this advice myself?
3. Double-check your insight. Think of your friends and advisors as a sounding board — a way to get extra clarity and solidify your own insights. For instance: “I think this is what I need to do. Do you think I’m overreacting?” Notice that you’re asking for feedback, not advice.
4. Don’t stop at “should.” Knowing what’s in your best interest and doing it are two different things. Saying “I should” isn’t a full commitment. Promise yourself to it with an action-oriented “I will” or “I must.”
5. Write your own book of advice. Start a notebook where you jot down the tips and words of comfort you give (or would give) others. Over time, you’ll compile your very own personal advice columns, which will come in handy when you’re feeling out of sorts.
PS: Sometimes, our search for advice is really about overcoming our anxiety. If that’s the case, these tips can help.