Whether it’s advice on what to wear, what to text a date back or more high-stakes life decisions, our friends and family are the first people we go to for counsel. And yet, how often do we ignore their sage words? And how often do we roll our eyes as we watch them go against our best advice? Or, even worse, only listen to the exact same advice when it comes from someone else? We've been there.
It's deeply infuriating and can definitely cause some resentment to brew. So why does it happen? According to Geraldine K. Piorkowski, PhD, writing in Psychology Today, it's a pretty natural phenomenon, and all part of the complicated dynamics we hold as social animals.
Ahead, we break down the reasons we resist taking our friends' advice — and vice versa.
Firstly, just like a majestic view is lost on those who see it every day, the shine of our friends and family can wear thin. It's not that they become less important, but the ease of access we have to them means the appreciation can slip. We love them, and clearly want them around us more than everyone else, but we're simply not that engaged in the interactions, according to Piorkowski.
“There is less novelty in established relationships to grab our attention,” writes Piorkowski. “We attend sporadically to conversations, resulting in the all-too-common complain ‘You didn’t hear a word I said’.” We’re not wired to give the same enthused attention to ‘regulars’ in our lives as we are to strangers or acquaintances.
Basically, we adapt to the familiar, and it becomes unnoteworthy.
Old perceptions are hard to override.
As Piorkowski notes, “We remember people as they were, not as they are.”
This is particularly the case as to why your parents won’t take your advice. They’ve seen you dribble all over yourself as a baby, and as much as you've accomplished over the years, part of them will always see you as the kid you were — and not necessarily someone that can teach them anything.
The same goes for your friends. They've likely seen you at your worst, too, stumbling home late at night, dating the wrong people and making poor decisions of your own. Sometimes our advice flops because we're unconsciously regarded as flawed in a way that strangers or third parties aren't. It doesn't mean we're not as loved or respected, there's just too much context for us to be treated as beacons of wisdom.
Sometimes, what we're putting down isn't being picked up because the person just isn't ready to accept our point of view.
Our friends and family are the people we’re likely the most honest with, so when we’re giving — or receiving — brutally honest takes on situations, we forget that it doesn't always align with how the other person is perceiving the issue at hand. And therefore may even ignore the advice out of denial.
So how do we get around it?
While it's hard to get around our instinctive listening habits, we can control how much we engage in giving unsolicited advice. Helping friends out and talking things through with them is a beautiful thing, but it can become a tricky habit to break, so ease up.
We can easily become overly invested in other people's lives and problems. And just like we want to scream at TV characters for making the ‘wrong’ choices, our loved ones’ lives can often become our own essential viewing. Finally, we highly recommend avoiding the dreaded 'I told you so'. It's not a pleasant thing to hear and doesn’t help anyone.