Four Compelling Reasons to Give Advice

This week's post is written by Sooth Intern, Robert Garcia. Robert recently completed his Ph.D. in Psychology and Social Behavior at UC Irvine.

As the saying goes, it’s easier to give advice than to take it.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that giving advice isn’t still beneficial to us.  When done mindfully, it can actually help bring out our best selves.  How?  

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
1.    When we thoughtfully craft advice for others, it gives us a chance to practice our problem-solving skills.  The problems of others don’t require sorting through all of our daily internal dialogue to get to the heart of the matter (which make our own problems seem harder than they actually are) – we’re just outsiders looking in on a few key pieces of information in an effort to find a clear path for someone with more distractions.  This teaches us to simplify problems and focus only on the crucial features.  

Somewhere, someone is having a worse day than you
2.    Giving advice inherently involves some level of social comparison.  The act of suggesting a solution to someone else’s predicament registers in our own minds as evidence that we’ve got our act together enough to take on the extra burden of helping others.  It can be empowering and remind you of your sense of agency.  It also may help put our own problems in perspective if the person we’re trying to help is going through something more serious.

Do unto others...
3.    Advice serves as a mirror for our own values.  It keeps us accountable – we ought to be consistent and practice what we preach.  Helping someone take the first steps in solving a problem can facilitate taking those same steps in our own lives by increasing our awareness of what is important to us (which usually guides advice in the first place).

Rise by lifting others
4. Helping others feels good!  We are social animals and the reward centers of our brain light up when we help friends and family.  It also creates feedback loops where helping others can make them more likely to return the favor in the future.  That process strengthens social bonds – increased support makes life more manageable and increased closeness makes it more enjoyable.  Win-win!