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Why Is It So Hard to Take Your Own Advice?

If there is one piece of advice I give regularly to my friends, it is this: “Just talk to him!” Or her, or them, or whomever. I’m constantly advising my friends that their problems would be more quickly and efficiently solved were they to just say something to the person currently stressing them out.

And, probably, this works. I wouldn’t know, as it’s something I rarely do myself. It’s one thing to give advice to someone else, dispensing thoughtful words of wisdom over Gchat. But try applying those same suggestions to your own life and it often falls apart. You definitely should just confront your friend about how much it annoys and hurts you that she has a habit of canceling plans at the last minute; I, on the other hand, have known my own flaky friend for far too long to bring it up at this point. It’s complicated. Don’t worry about it.

Really, it’s a simple matter of perspective. It’s hard to be your own adviser because you’re too close to your own problems, and so your emotions are more likely to cloud your judgement. It’s much easier to identify the most rational option, on the other hand, when you’ve got an outsider’s vantage point. “When we are in a particular situation, we take lots of irrelevant factors into account,” said Dan Ariely, the behavioral economist, best-selling author, and sometime advice columnist for The Wall Street Journal. (A collection of those advice columns, titled Irrationally Yours, was published last month.) “But when we’re external to it, we sometimes look at things more objectively.”

Read more: Why Is It So Hard to Take Your Own Advice? — The Cut


 

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