If you have been watching the Olympics, then you must have seen the way that the athletes and their coaches interact. You often see athletes conferring with their coaches going over strategy and making adjustments to the competition.
Remember, these athletes are at the forefront of their sports. They have spent years practicing, and they have worked on their skills. They have vast knowledge of the sports they play. Yet, the best athletes also listen to their coaches and change what they are doing in response to the suggestions they are given.
How about you?
It is a common reaction to resist the advice of others. There are two reasons that this happens.
First, getting advice requires the admission that we might be wrong. It is difficult for many people to separate their ideas and plans from their sense of self. A recommendation of a different course of action is a statement about an idea, not about the competence of the person who is taking advice.
Second, when we set out a course of action, we have reasons why we have decided on that plan. We have given it thought. When someone else gives us advice, we are less certain of the basis of their advice than we are of our own decisions. As a result, we give that advice less weight and typically carry on with our original plan.
Here are three ways to do a better job of taking advice from others:
First, it is valuable to take a third-person perspective on the situation. Rather than treating the advice as something given to you, ask yourself what someone else would do if they had your plan but wanted received the advice you got. Research suggests that taking this outsider's perspective helps you to get beyond your own commitment to the original plan.
Second, try getting some distance from the problem. When you are deep in the development of a plan, you are mired in the details. When you are thinking about how to accomplish something, it is hard to take advice into account. To help you get a broader perspective on the issue, spend some time thinking about why you are pursuing a goal. When thinking about why you are doing something, you get some distance from the details that can make people's advice easier to take into account.
Finally, remember that you will ultimately be evaluated on what you do and not what you were thinking. Anything that adds to the long-term success of your plans will reflect well on you, even if some of those ideas came from someone else. In the end, the Olympians who stand on the medal podium are the ones who get the credit for their performance, no matter how many coaches stood behind them giving advice along the way.
Follow Art Markman, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/abmarkman