Advice – a difficult subject really. Having been given so much advice over the years regarding my weight and how to shift it, I quickly learnt that most of the time, my mind pretended that it wasn’t listening.
It was almost as if I was subconsciously sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting, ‘lalalalala’, at the same time!
Most of what was said made total sense. This advice came from a place of love and concern. There was no need for me to ignore this advice. There was every need for me heed it. Yet I didn’t…I carried on as I was…getting fatter and fatter. I reached rock-bottom before I thought it was a good idea to put some of this advice into practice. I keep beating myself up over why this was. Even though I am focused on moving forwards and looking to the future, I still have a strange desire to work out why…the why isn’t as important though as moving forwards is.
However, it was reassuring to know that I am not alone in this trait. Harvard social scientist, Francesca Gino, found that despite evidence from hundreds of studies over the past two decades showing our decisions greatly benefit from another pair of eyes, we routinely sabotage ourselves by refusing to take advice. But why? Why do we ignore sensible advice from people who love and care for us?
1. The Power Problem.
In one study, Gino and her colleagues, discovered that making people feel powerful – even temporarily – by asking them to describe a time when they had control over others significantly reduced their willingness to use advice. According to Gino “we are trying to make a good impression on others, and show them we are knowledgeable and competent individuals.” Taking advice somehow feels like admitting that we don’t really deserve our high status.
2. The Anger Effect vs. The Gratitude Solution.
Whether or not we take counsel also has a lot to do with the peaks and valleys of our moods. In another experiment, Gino and Maurice Schweitzer at the University of Pennsylvania made one group of people feel angry by watching a short movie clip about a man being bullied. Others were induced to feel gratitude by watching a touching clip in which a man received an unexpected gift from his coworkers. The gracious bunch proved three times more likely than the mad men and women to accept advice on a completely unrelated task, while also performing better as a result. In the midst of gracious bliss, the people around us feel more like helpful friends than suspicious foes.
3. The Anxiety Paradox.
Not all negative emotions drive us away from advice. Anxiety can make us more prone to listen. Imagine for a moment that I asked you to estimate the value of the coins sitting in a glass jar in front of you. You will have access to an advisor to help you estimate. Will you take the advice? According to another series of experiments Gino and her colleagues found that if you’re feeling anxious you will probably take that advice. The rub is that “anxious individuals rely heavily on advice, even when the advice is bad.” What if I told you that your advisor gets paid a bonus the more your guess exceeds the true value of the jar? Disturbingly, anxiety lowers our self-confidence which causes us to discount our own judgment even when the only alternative is listening to advisors with a clear conflict of interest. And what if you pay good money for that corrupted advice? You are even more likely to take it. Accounting scandal, anyone?
4. The Cooperation Solution.
Even when people felt powerful, knowing they would eventually be cooperating with their advisor on a mutually beneficial task virtually eliminated the power problem. Cooperation fosters trust which fosters even more cooperation. Cooperation also tends to increase positive emotions, which naturally encourages us to respect the opinions of others, while also giving our own judgments a fair hearing.
French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre famously quipped that “Hell is other people.” Whether or not Sartre’s observation is true, we often treat good advice like it comes from a devil. The evidence points to a simple solution. Better decisions come from surrounding ourselves with trusted people and asking for their opinions…or better still, learning to trust ourselves – as we have the answers we need.
This process of not listening to advice was highlighted for me by my lovely other half. I have been giving gentle nudges regarding healthier eating for a while now. Despite me following a healthy eating plan for quite some time, he has not really joined my efforts. He has no need to lose weight, but four KitKat Chunky’s and a family-sized stuffed crust pizza is not really suitable as an evening meal for anyone!
So my gentle nudges have been given. After completing my nutrition diploma I put together an eating plan for him – although I could have done this without the diploma as it pretty much taught me what I knew already! He looked at it, sniffed, and ignored it.
A few days ago he excitedly told me that if he took personal training sessions with the PT at the gym, this guy would put him a nutritional plan together. ‘Argh!’ was my immediate reaction. How could he trust this guy – who advised him to look in shop windows to check himself out, and was overheard telling a group of ladies that he helped a client go from a size 26 to an 18 in only four weeks…hmmm…! Anyway, I am pleased that he is starting to take an interest in health and wellbeing, but just wish he would use the resources he has available at his fingertips!
So my learnings over the years have been to try and look forwards – I spent so much time trying to work out the ‘why’ that I never actually took any action! It’s interesting to try and work out why, but it can stop progress being made – is it essential to know why in order to move forwards?
The second – and most important – learning is that it is far better to help people work out their own solutions rather than ramming advice down their throats. All they will do is ram burgers down it instead!
Right then – on that note, I will stop preaching! Today has been nice – a lovely relaxing Sunday. I slept in, and really did not want to get up! I did, and headed off to see the horses, and then to Asda – and popped to get the last few Christmas presents too. After this, we headed home for lunch and then went to catch up with my sister and the kids. They adore my other half and so spent most of the time harassing him! There was a little drama though – my nephew is potty training and is not liking it at all…he refuses to use it…and ended up weeing in my nieces bed. So that was fun! We then headed home, where I wrapped the Christmas presents and got started on dinner. I am now well into the swing of Breaking Bad…season one is done and I am loving it…more episodes tonight I think.
A gorgeous food day today. I started with some lovely fruit. Lunch tasted good, but might not have been so good as I bought a yellow ‘whoopsie’ sticker packet of fish but wasn’t so sure. It tasted okay – I put some mixed herbs on it, and had some courgette, red onion and peppers with it. Dinner was ace. A roast chicken dinner – chicken, carrots, red onion, green beans, courgette, broccoli and cauliflower with LowLow cheese poured on top. My snacks were good too!
Exercise: Nothing today!
Thank you for reading,
Weight Loss Bitch xxx
P.S. I read about this on Psychology Today website.