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Advice – we are surrounded by it – from blogs, articles, news sources, professionals, parents, friends. There is no shortage of it, even when we aren’t asking for it. Sifting through the good and bad can be challenging enough, but add our propensity as people for ignoring advice and we sometimes find ourselves making the same mistakes, over and over. Read more to find out why we do this and how we might look to the new year as an opportunity to change our habits…
As CFO’s for hire, we are often put in the position of giving advice to our clients related to the finances of their small businesses. Drawing on our experience, expertise, and education, we believe we, more often than not, give good advice. At the same time, we are often frustrated when a client seeks our advice, but chooses not to take it. Especially, when we turn out to have been right. I told you so’s are useless and not productive, so we endeavor to reframe our advice, communicate the benefits of our proposed solution better, or provide more evidence supporting our position.
Even still, our clients don’t always listen. Now, we know we aren’t always right, and without a crystal ball, no one could be. We also know we are human and often don’t seek or take advice from others either. So why is that? Why do we insist on sabotaging ourselves by not listening to others’ good advice.
According to the book “Sidetracked” by Harvard social scientist, Francesco Gino, there are 3 primary reasons why we don’t take advice.
- The Power/ Pride Conundrum
One study referenced in the book, discovered that when people feel powerful, they are less likely to take advice. The researchers surmised that “we are trying to make a good impression on others, and show them we are knowledgeable and competent individuals”. By taking advice, we are somehow admitting that we are not deserving of that higher status.
2. Anger Clouds Our Judgement
Whether or not we take counsel also has a lot to do with the highs and lows of our moods. In another experiment described in the book, one group of people were made to feel angry by watching a short movie clip about a man being bullied. A second group was persuaded to feel gratitude by watching a touching clip in which a man received an unexpected gift from his work colleagues.
The grateful group proved three times more likely than the angry men and women to accept advice on a completely unrelated task, while also performing better as a result. When we are in a state of grateful bliss, the people around us feel more like helpful friends than suspicious foes.
3. Anxiety Can Be Paradox
Unlike the negative emotion of anger, anxiety actually pushes us to take advice – even bad advice. The researchers found that anxiety can make us more prone to listen. The rub is that we might be even more likely to listen to bad advice when feeling anxious.
Solution: Cooperation is Key
Overcoming the power problem – even when people felt powerful, knowing they would eventually be cooperating with a trusted advisor on a mutually beneficial task virtually eliminated the power problem. Cooperation fosters trust which fosters even more cooperation.
Capitalizing on positive emotions to overcome anger and anxiety – cooperation also tends to increase positive emotions, which naturally encourages us to respect the opinions of others, while also providing us the confidence to give our own judgments a fair hearing.
While we often treat good advice like it comes from something evil. The evidence points to a simple (albeit obvious) solution. Better decisions come from surrounding ourselves with trusted people and asking for their opinions.
Happy New Year and we hope you take our advice!
And for some more good advice from your CFO for hire click here to see which business entity is right for you.