Both of these seem obvious. And I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t just say, “Duh!” when hearing that. But what’s amazing is how often we aging baby boomers don’t seek others' advice, often when we don’t think the other person has anything to offer. And, similarly, when we do ask, we pay so little attention to that advice. Sure, we give it lip service and thank the person. But you and I all know that more often than not we barely hear what the other person said. Most of the time we already have our minds made up if we’re making a decision. We may not articulate it. But as soon as the words come out of the other person’s mouth you know that you already had decided. If the advice given is the opposite of what you were planning, you almost immediately start to rebut, poised for the attack. If the advice is supporting your decision, you right away say, “Hey, you’re right.” So why did we bother asking? That’s the million dollar question.
This reminds me of when, years ago, I was getting set to watch a football game on TV between the NY Giants, the team I had grown up rooting for, and the San Francisco 49ers, the team I had adopted after years of living in the Bay Area. When asked which team I wanted to win I said, “I’m not sure.” And I honestly thought I wasn’t sure.
The ball was kicked off and immediately my body started moving with the Giants’ kick return specialist, trying to dodge the defense. It was pretty clear to me who I was rooting for. But if I had just stopped to think, and not waited for my body language to spill the beans I would have realized how obvious it was. I wasn’t going to throw away decades of cheering on a team for a few years of living in a different area.
So the same can be said of seeking advice. The question is, are you really seeking advice or are you simply looking for confirmation?
I’ve gotten a bit wiser with age, just as my parents said I would (damn them for being right!). So while my wife might disagree, I do seek advice more now—maybe not directions, but then again, who needs it with our smart phones and GPS. Equally important, when I seek that advice, I listen. And, perhaps most important, my mind is not already made up. I’m not seeking validation.