Saturday, August 1, 2015

asking for (and rejecting) the advice of others

This title is borrowed from an article by Denny Emerson (imitation and flattery and all that) that I read while saddle shopping last winter. And I've been mulling the topic ever since, much like a lapidary works on a stubborn bit of gravel that refuses to be smoothed into shiny stone.

Why? I'm not entirely sure (and sometimes gravel is just gravel)... But here we go anyway.


isabel isn't sure either
The back story: My saddle searches led to CotH forums on opinions of the relative attributes of different saddle options. I found lots of super useful threads... but also some that were entertaining in their own right as they devolved into flame wars (shocking? not really).

One poster in particular repeatedly started threads about an expensive custom saddle she wanted to order and sought advice on which panels were better and how to break it in etc etc - never mind that she was young and didn't own a horse. Forum veterans kept encouraging her to get a less expensive used option, but she always had reasons why that wouldn't work. Finally someone linked to Denny's article and not-so-subtly suggested she stop asking for advice period. 


Lolz were had by many.... But that's not the point here - that's just what got me thinking. 

Because I realized in reading the article that *I* can be that person, asking for advice then quickly saying "Yeah, but--" when I hear something I don't like. I've even done it on this blog. 

Denny quotes Walt Gervais saying "The only people who take your advice are people who agreed with you before they heard your answer." Now I don't exactly agree 100% - but I can also think of many times when I fell into that trap.... And why? I like to think I'm a logical and open-minded individual, so why would I dismiss out of hand a piece of asked-for advice? (and we are talking about solicited advice here; unsolicited is a difference story)

A little googling (bc yes, I do actually google all of life's great questions haha) provided some insights. Psychology Today says we ignore good advice because:
  • We want to make a good impression and show that we are knowledgeable and competent individuals. Taking advice somehow feels like admitting otherwise.
  • We are moody. Anger or defensiveness prevent me from listening with an open mind, whereas feelings of gratitude ('this person just wants to help!') produce better results

I don't know about you - but both of those bullets really resonate - tho usually in different circumstances. The first point might crop up when I'm conversing with someone considered a professional (trainers, farriers, saddle fitters, etc). It also kinda feeds into that primal need to be 'liked,' whatever that means.

The second one - moodiness - is most likely to be inflicted on my peers. (Makes me sound like a really nice person, eh?). This might also be at play when I read blog comments that prompt an eye roll and sigh like, 'ugh did they even read the post?' 

Except that's not very generous and I usually have to walk myself back from the temptation to write pithy rejections. Because really, if I ask for advice on saddle fit, or supplements, or training exercises (all things I've done) - why shut down anybody who makes time to reply? 

just come at me with your polite responses. i dare you!
Psychology is weird, y'all. 

Again, I'm not entirely sure why I'm writing this post - except that it's something I want to work on in myself. I want to learn, I want to be better, I want to leverage the resources and knowledge that exist in the horse community. 

But I shoot myself in the foot if I'm too busy trying to prove my own competence to hear what others might add. The idea of approaching these conversations with 'gratitude' on the brain is kind of neat, and could probably even help me out in other areas where I struggle - like patience haha. 

Pick the Brain (a website dedicated to self improvement) takes the discussion a step further and says we should consider a few things before we ever even reach out for advice:
  • Advice vs. validation: do we just want a pat on the back? in other words, don't bother looking for advice if all you want is approval
  • The truth hurts: sometimes solicited advice doesn't go where you want it to. do you have an open mind?
  • You don't have to take any advice, even if you asked for it - but figure out why you don't want it. Is it bc you've already weighed the risks and see it as acceptable? Or bc emotionally it wasn't what you wanted to hear?

So yea... that's kinda where I'm at right now haha. Just randomly babbling about philosophies and psychologies that I only marginally understand. Like ya do. 


isabel still doesn't know what in the ever loving hell i'm trying to say here

I think it's relevant tho bc it's critical that I am willing to learn from others (what is a lesson other than paid advice anyway?) - but that learning process will be stunted if I only ever surround myself with people who think exactly like I do.

I'm also generally pretty surprised and grateful for all the folks who have willingly shared their own experiences and ideas with me on this blog and in person (like when Kaitlyn and I tackled this subject over a post-lesson beer the other night. Check out her blog for her own thoughts). This has been immeasurably helpful as I try to educate myself and make informed decisions.

Not sure if any of you have any corollary thoughts? Whether in regards to seeking advice from others or even just the vague mental blocks between us and the knowledge we seek? Or perhaps you've been on the opposite end of the table, in a position to give advice that's immediately swept aside?

28 comments:

  1. I can relate to this. I also try to watch myself that I'm not too quick to take someone's advice though.

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    1. that's definitely important too!

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  2. i try not to do this too. sometimes i get mad bc i'll post and say I KNOW it's NOT this this this this and people say well maybe its this and i'm like uhhhhh did you not read the post?! and i find i am much more willing to listen to advice when it's not given out rudely. i find a lot of posters on forums are really rude about their advice. because THEY'RE RIGHT. horse people are a very opinionated group in general but that doesn't mean you have to be rude. and you know what my vet says?? opinions are like assholes. we all have one.

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    1. haha you are so right about our community being particularly opinionated lol. and i tend to be really dismissive of most of it... but i also *know* there's good info out there that i'm overlooking too

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  3. I know when I am looking for advice I will usually dismiss a suggestion if its

    1) Something that is too obvious, I'm typically looking for answers outside the box and the obvious answer is usually the one I tried first.
    2) If the person its coming from is someone whose a trainwreck, like seriously if the answer that person provides is not coming from a 'learn from my trainwrecky mistake ways' place then its not the answer you want. (Like my cousin K, I'd NEVER EVER take advice from her)

    That said, observing people and learning from their personal journeys can typically give you enough grains of salt and experiences to fall back on that you haven't personally had in order to move forward in a more sane manner (like I pretty much do not do anything my cousin K has done or if it seems like something she'd do, I'd avoid it, a demented What Would Cousin K do?)

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    1. i definitely agree about trying to observe others and learn from watching. sometimes just having an open eye is enough to tell us what we need to know. and also, never take advice from Cousin K!! lol

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  4. Yes! It's hugely related to a cognitive bias called confirmation bias. We tend to seek out information that supports our own opinions, rather than use inductive reasoning. Everyone wants to believe that they look at all the facts, then make decisions based on those facts, but actually, the opposite is true. It's hard-wired into ourselves to make decisions first and then find evidence to back up our decisions, and in this case it comes out as rejecting advice when we realize that the advice wasn't aligned with what we wanted to hear.

    We also want to avoid cognitive dissonance (when our actions and our beliefs do not align), because if someone offers advice that goes against our actions, we fight back. If they change our beliefs, cognitive dissonance. So the rider had already decided (action in this sense) she wanted a new saddle and if she were to be convinced that it was a bad idea (belief), then she would experience cognitive dissonance.

    I thought this pop psych article was good- http://www.theemotionmachine.com/why-we-ignore-advice-when-we-need-it-the-most

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    1. Did you know that I'm completely immune to confirmation bias? My boyfriend and I fight about it all the time and I'm always right.

      ;)

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    2. lol this is awesome!! and i'm actually kind of kicking myself for not thinking about the confirmation bias angle to start with, considering it's kind of a big deal in my professional realm (analytics etc). thanks also for sending that link - that's super interesting!

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  5. I've been struggling with this a lot with new coach. She's super experienced and very, very good at what she does. But something in her personality makes me WANT to prove her wrong and show I'm right about some things. So weird because l don t know better than her at all and I need the help . I'm doing my best to keep quiet and take all the advice she gives whether I like it or not :)

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    1. ugh i know that feeling exactly - when somehow the personality just grates even tho we know it shouldn't?? hopefully that's just growing pains tho and will get better as you both get to know each other

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  6. I hate "advice" - I rarely ask for it, but when I do, I listen. 99% of the time, my blog posts are meant to be just narratives of an underachieving over-achiever's life. I want my readers to laugh with me, commiserate, or find something that I've written to be of interest. I don't share my experiences out of a need for advice, but putting your life out there encourages people to tell you how to do it better.

    I probably come across as a "know it all" to some people, but that's because I only write about something after I've thought it through very carefully. And like you said, if I accept someone's advice, it's because I probably already agreed with that person. I do however appreciate "suggestions" that come with personal anecdotes. I like the kind where someone shares how they solved a similar problem so maybe I could try that.

    I do actively seek out advice, but it's ALWAYS from trusted sources: my husband, best friend, or trainer. I am not very receptive to advice from laypeople. I like to look for answers myself after reading/researching possible solutions. It's only when I can't decide for myself that I ask for help.

    Sheesh - I sound like an incredible pain in the ass! Good topic, and thanks for the opportunity to be honest. :0)

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    1. Eh, yeah. I've very, very careful who I ask for advice because I'm opinionated and very particular about what I do with that advice.

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    2. thanks for commenting - glad you liked the topic! and i definitely respect that position of only really asking for advice when you know it's specifically applicable and from a reliable source. there's nothing wrong with being guarded about what others have to offer (esp on the internet!) bc there's certainly plenty of misinformation to go around... and honestly i tend to be similar to you in some ways - already having a pretty good idea of what direction i want to go in, but i differ in using the blog as a sort of 'sounding board' or bellwether, if that makes sense

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  7. I'm usually one to dismiss advice the moment that it's given to me, but then I'll look back at it and realize that the giver may actually have something to offer. Validation is nice, and it feels great, but sometimes we just need a reminder to open our ears.

    That being said, unsolicited advice and "advice" (i.e. incorrect information or just downright rudeness) will always grind my gears and will always receive a sick burn in response.

    If it's a big enough issue, I say take what useful advice there is, do some more researching on it, and then come up with a game plan. It's always better to have a couple of sources to fall back on when things get confusing, and it, when it comes to horses, everyone has 100 different solutions to one problem.

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    1. i love that approach of sitting on it for a little bit weighing various options. i'm pretty similar in that respect - but want to get better about being so dismissive (to the point of rudeness) right off the bat. (and again, this is just for advice i ask for - i see no problem in rebuffing the unsolicited stuff haha)

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  8. I loved his article. It's so true that sometimes we just want our own ideas validated by someone else, instead of really wanting help.

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    1. it's a very interesting instinct, that's for sure! sometimes i just think knowing these things about ourselves is half the battle in understanding how to be better about it

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  9. I love this post. As someone who is new to horse ownership and somewhat of a DIYer due to finances/budget, I ask for advice often and from different sources. I like to think that I take different input in and sort through it and try to find what advice works for me, based on my circumstances. But I have found myself asking too many people's opinions and getting overwhelmed and confused - analysis paralysis. Often, there is no replacement for good old experience, for good or for bad. And not every answer is universal, for every horse or for every circumstance.

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    1. i'm glad you like the topic - thanks for reading! and analysis paralysis is SO REAL omg. i agree that there are certain mistakes that we're all just destined to make for ourselves... but simultaneously i DO like asking a lot of different ppl their opinions just bc you never know when you'll strike gold. it helps to have a fairly clear understanding of what you need and why tho at the onset to avoid getting overwhelmed, i guess

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  10. This post really resonated with me- I'm definitely guilty of this. I'm just a ridiculously stubborn person (in a bad way, I'll admit it), so anything that smells like someone trying to tell me what to do just doesn't sit right with me. I love getting advice from my trainer because I've seen her in action and trust her knowledge and intentions, but I don't love hearing advice from other people. Now, if a person knows something that I'm sloppy at- like putting on polo wraps- I'll ask for and gratefully use their instruction. But in general, I pay my trainer for her opinion because I respect it and will leave it at that.

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    1. oh man i'm so stubborn too!!! stubborn equestrians unite lol. and yes - i like to treat my trainers as the ultimate source of information. except... i ride with so many and while their general philosophies mesh well, there are occasionally small contradictions haha. i guess it's just about weighing everything accordingly?

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  11. Well its important to think critically about all advice and make sure it passes your "gut feeling" test before implementing it. And its good to realize when you maybe shouldn't bother asking for advice when you really don't want it. Personally I am open to advice wherever/whoever it comes from, oftentimes I need to really dwell on it.

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    1. very good points - tho i suppose part of the rationale behind this post was that i don't always trust my 'gut feelings' haha. it makes sense tho!

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  12. That chicken picture is beyond creepy.
    This is going to make me think twice before asking for advice. I think I fall into the category of asking for advice when I've already made a decision more time than not.

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    1. haha glad you liked the pic - it's russel crowe's arms from 'gladiator' and i luvs it. but yea glad the post got you thinking! my ideas are all still pretty half baked... but clearly that's never stopped me haha

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  13. I go back and forth on this, especially in the blogosphere. Sometimes I love getting advice and opinions from everyone because it can be informative and educational. Others think of things I hadn't thought of, and hearing about others' experiences can be really great. Other times though, it can be overwhelming and a little frustrating. But you are so right in that when I feel overwhelmed or frustrated by it, it's usually due to MY frame of mind and not what's being said.

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    1. yea i think that's really the bottom line. asking for advice and not taking it is fine, as is not really wanting any input. but at the most fundamental level i think we should understand our motives. there really is so much to learn from out there - so long as we're willing to listen haha (tho of course there's also plenty of BS too!)

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