On the strangeness of giving advice

Calvin never gives free advice! (Credits: Bill Watterson)

1/ Giving advice is a strange thing.

2/ First of all, let’s get this right off the bat: the advice-giver accrues MORE benefit from giving advice than the one who’s receiving it.

3/ When we give advice, our half-formed thoughts crystallize and tell us clearly and reinforce what we believe in.

The receiver, on the other hand, has the tough job of figuring out what we mean and then making changes to his/her life based on the few bits of info we give out.

4/ Giving advice also helps us find our tribe. People who give similar advice band together. This is why SF/VC culture is a cult.

5/ Giving advice legitimizes our weirdness.

If enough people give advice about saving time by drinking your meals, it’s no longer weird.

6/ Our rate of giving unsolicited advice >> rate of giving solicited advice.

Why do we poke people and ask them to change? It’s mainly driven by FOMO. By giving advice to others to live their life like we live, we want to ensure that they’re not living a superior life.

7/ Thanks to Twitter, our rate of giving unsolicited advice to complete strangers >> rate of giving advice to near and dear ones.

It’s as if by tweeting, we’re telling things to ourselves and hoping a fellow tribalist finds us so that we both can reinforce our views.

8/ Giving unsolicited advice to strangers was a job once limited to sages or madmen.

Now, it’s everybody’s business.

9/ It’s also interesting that we often give advice and move on. Unless we’re personally attached to someone, we rarely have skin the game to ensure the advice receiver changes.

The GIVE ADVICE -> MOVE ON -> GIVE ADVICE pattern helps us feel smart and helpful.

10/ That’s it.

Of course, this essay WAS unsolicited and I expect to benefit from it, one way or another. You’ll most likely forget about it in an hour and move on, but that’s OK.

Remember: giving advice benefits oneself more than it benefits the other πŸ™‚

This essay is a lightly-edited version of a Twitter thread I posted.

Have an opinion on this essay? You can send your feedback on email to me.