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Getting Advice from Friends: How Much is Too Much?

Many of us find comfort in checking in with our friends from time to time to hear their thoughts, opinions, and ideas about concerns we bring to them. It can help us to feel more connected and part of a community when we feel that the people around us have our back. Sometimes our friends can see things from perspectives we have not considered and since they often know our “blind spots” they can help us develop a more well-rounded point of view, so why not ask them for advice? The question is, at what point is asking friends for advice too much?

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When you don’t trust yourself

It is important to make sure that you are checking in with yourself about your intention for asking for advice from your friends. Are you seeking new information that may help you make a more informed decision, or are you asking because you don’t think you can figure it out on your own due to lack of something? If you are leaning more towards the latter (and be honest!), you might not be in a place where you trust yourself. If you think you might be struggling to trust yourself, ask yourself some of these questions:

Do I trust that I have the best intentions for myself? 

Do I view myself as capable and intelligent?

Am I confident in my ability to make sound decisions?

Am I compassionate with myself after making mistakes or experiencing failure?

Do I punish myself for long periods of time after making mistakes or experiencing failure?

When making decisions, do I utilize both facts and feelings or do I rely only on one source?

Do I ask people who are genuinely qualified to give me advice because they have information or  experiences I may not have?

There are many reasons that you may struggle to trust your judgement that can range from lack of experiences, to low self-esteem, even to traumatic experiences that may have negatively impacted the way you view yourself. The good news is…you can learn how to rebuild a sense of trust with yourself! Whether it is learning to keep a small daily promise to yourself or exploring and unpacking your concerns in therapy, trust within yourself can be rebuilt with intentional effort. 

When accountability is up in the air

When you defer to the judgement of others for every decision, it can absolve you of personal accountability. In other words, it externalizes the responsibility of the person who would be carrying out the advice. Since you did what someone else told you to do, whatever happens as a result isn’t really a reflection of you…right? Wrong! No matter the outcome, much of the credit (or blame depending on how it went) is placed on the advice giver and not the person who sought out advice. This can be concerning as it can lead to feelings of dependence and a desire to dodge any repercussions for your actions. 

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When your relationships suffer

Picture this. Have you ever been in a situation where you gave a friend *impeccable* advice and they ended up doing whatever they saw fit in the first place? Maybe they continued to come to you with the same or similar problems to seek advice every week. How did you feel? Seeking advice from your friend group is not a bad thing, but when done in excess it can impart feelings of resentment, annoyance, or even emotional exhaustion that the relationship does not have equal reciprocity. Of course you determine how much is too much for you, but remember that friendship is a give and take, not a take and take and take. 

Final Points

Remember to ask yourself about the intention of asking for advice. Trust the decisions you make and trust the other people you are asking are equipped to provide you with meaningful advice. When implementing advice, take responsibility for the outcome.  Know that advice from friends can be great as a sounding board, but they should not be used as a magic 8 ball.