May 16, 2020 Leave your thoughts

why does it feel so good to be someone’s coach

cool paper in 3 minutes (12)

Eskreis-Winkler, L., Fishbach, A., & Duckworth, A. L. (2018). Dear Abby: Should I Give Advice or Receive It? Psychological Science29(11), 1797–1806.

Common sense would tells us that troubled individuals should listen to advice from the successful people to boost their motivation and do better. We are constantly offered motivational advice about saving money, controlling our emotions, dieting … because we believe receiving advice can help us. This paper shows that, quite surprisingly, the opposite is true: GIVING advice raises our confidence and increases our motivation.

Eskereis-Winkler and her colleagues randomly assigned middle-school students to GIVE versus RECEIVE motivational advice on completing their schoolwork.

  • Each Giver read a letter from a younger student who asked for advice and then, wrote a motivational reply to that student.
  • Each Receivers read a motivational letter from a teacher and then, wrote their reaction as a reply.

The experimental design made sure that Receivers and Givers had similar reading and writing tasks to do and the only difference between them was giving/receiving. This went on once a week over 3 weeks (total 3 sessions).

Amazingly, over the following month, Givers were more motivated to study than Receivers. Givers spent more time per week studying vocabulary than Receivers.   

In Experiment 2, the results showed that people who reported themselves to be struggling to (1) save money, (2) control their tempers, (3) lose weight, or (4) find employment were also more motivated by giving advice than receiving it.

But why would giving advice have such great benefits?

Eskereis-Winkler and colleagues give a few good reasons: first, being asked for advice means we must have the ability to give advice. It is good for our self-image. We are recognised for a merit. We may or may not have that merit. But being ask boosts our confidence.

The second reason is more subtle: to give advice, we must conducts a biased search of memory. We looks for the times in our life when we did well, when we had a difficult problem and we solved it, we focus on our greatness. All of this biased search of our past will make us feel even better about ourselves.

Finally, in the process of giving advice, we forms specific intentions and lays out a concrete plans of action — both of these increase our own – i.e., the adviser’s – motivation and help us do better to achieve them.

Why do these findings matter?

Failing repeatedly can sap people of confidence in themselves and destroy their motivation. Giving advice can restore it.

If I did what I preach to others,
What a wonderful soul would I be

(Saadi Shirazi, 1210-1291)

The renowned Persian-speaking poet Saadi famously complained (see above) that he should listen to his own advice for others more often. Perhaps the paper discussed here could reassure him that he is doing alright.

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