When People Ask For (But Don’t Actually Want) Your Advice

It’s fairly common for people to ask me for advice on their workout routines or diets since they know I take such an active interest in such things.  Invariably I discover that after several minutes of chatting, my friend really doesn’t want my advice (even though he thinks he does).  Here would be a typical conversation:

Friend: Kuz, I need to get rid of this gut and get in better shape.  I get sick all the time and I just can’t stand it any more.

Me: Sure!  More than happy to help.  Well, what are you doing for exercising right now?

Friend: Not much.  I have some stuff in my basement… you know a weight bench and a treadmill, but I never use them.

Me: OK, well you at least have access to something.  That’s a start.  What about your diet?  What do you usually eat?

Friend: Oh man, I eat like such crap.  I tend to have a bagel and coffee for breakfast, although I skip breakfast a lot.  I will have like a Subway footlong for lunch and then a bunch of different stuff for dinner.  Lots of takeout.

Me:  OK… hey, what about that Coke you’re drinking?  What’s that about 20 oz.?

Friend: Yeah.

Me: Well, how many of those do you drink a day?

Friend: I dunno… probably 3.

Me: Three of those?  Every day?  Please tell me you’re joking.

Friend: Oh no way.  I need 3 of them a day.

Me: *long sigh*  OK, well, I have a few ideas on where to start.  First off, you gotta cut out those Cokes entirely or, worst case scenario, switch to diet.

Friend: Oh c’mon!  I can’t ditch those and the diet tastes like crap.

Me: Dude, one of those 20 oz. Cokes is 240 calories of pure sugar.  You are downing… just on Cokes alone… over 700 calories a day.  And you get nothing out of it!

Friend: Well, I can’t get rid of it.  What about exercises? I need to lose this gut.  What kind of crunches should I do?

Me: Crunches?  That’s not going to make you lose your gut.  You need to do some full-body lifting and actually use that dusty treadmill.

Friend: Really?  But what about the crunches?  How am I going to lose that gut?lucy doctor stand

You see my dilemma, no doubt.  People will come to me for advice in an area I have  a fair amount of knowledge and experience, but they’re really just looking for an answer that will validate them doing exactly what they’ve been doing all along.  They want the results, just not that real downer piece about changing their behavior to achieve those results.  Definition of insanity.

This happens all the time in life and it’s obviously not limited to the fitness context.  People will have a friend who is really successful in the business world and want to know what they did to get where they are, who they networked with and so on.  They will be told, “Well, the networking piece is important, but honestly the way you win people over is just kicking ass at your job first.  That’s how people notice you. I’ve had to work my ass off and pull some late nights.  I also took on some extra projects that I came up with to improve things around where I work.”  The advice seeker will often walk away thinking “Yeah yeah yeah, I get the hard work thing, but the networking sets you apart” and misses the whole point of the conversation.

Lest I sound all curmudgeonly about this topic, I genuinely enjoy giving people advice and helping them work through issues.  Heck, the whole point of this blog is to do just that and show how I have tried to make my own improvements.  But it’s an important lesson of life that if you are going to seek advice (and you will need to many, many, many times in your days on this earth), shut down that devil’s advocate part of your brain while listening to the advice.  Remind yourself you are NOT a genius in that topic and THAT’S why you are seeking someone else’s guidance and wise counsel.  Definitely apply some critical thinking after the fact, but do so to yourself and not just what you heard.

Just think… if we all did this a little better, it would not only give you the chance to really improve yourself, but would also improve the requests you get yourself for advice.  Crazy talk, I know.

Now please excuse me… I need to go ask someone what’s the least amount of effort I would possibly need to become the next running back of the Dallas Cowboys… and I better not hear any of that jibba-jabba about hard work.  The nerve of someone all stomping on my dream like that.

One Reply to “When People Ask For (But Don’t Actually Want) Your Advice”

  1. What? No one has commented on this piece? I love it! I think you are spot on. We ask for advice but we really don’t want to hear the part about “change” and “hard work”. Thanks for reminding me not to be “that guy” or girl as the case may be.

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