Have you ever heard anyone say, “I should take my own advice, shouldn’t I!” It turns out that giving advice to others actually can benefit you. A recent study in the journal PNAS showed that giving motivational advice raised academic achievement for the advisor. Here is the thinking about how this works:
- People who advocate for specific opinions or beliefs come to believe what they say to mitigate cognitive dissonance. In other words, if I give someone advice, but I don’t follow it myself, this causes psychological discomfort. This makes it less likely I will not heed my advice.
- The reflection entailed in generating advice may prompt advisors to formulate concrete plans for enacting the recommended behaviors in their own lives. For instance, if my goal is to buy a house, I can think about what advice I would give to someone else in this situation. I will ignore things that are out of their control (and mine). So I might suggest opening a savings account to save for the downpayment and automatically deposit into it, with every paycheck, before spending on anything else. What just happened is that I created a practical plan for reaching my goal!
- Giving advice, unlike taking advice, can increase confidence. It feels good to be able to show expertise and help others. And feeling confident in this way can improve motivation.
So how can this work in your relationship? If you want to improve your relationship in a particular area, say, improving your love life, you could write your own advice column on the subject. You might do some research, see what is out there, and choose some things that make sense to you to include in your column. (By the way, for ideas on this subject check out: “How Healthy is Your Sex Life,” “Sex and Relationships,” and the guide “Things Your Mama Never Told You About Talking Dirty…”).
Once you have your article completed, consider sharing it with your partner and having a conversation about it. Though I would caution against giving your partner advice—if they haven’t asked for advice, it may come across as criticism or worse. Or maybe you have a friend who would be interested in reading it. Or simply write it down in your journal. Whatever you choose to do, check back in a few months and see if you have followed any of your own advice!