the relationship between anxiety and advice

Researches from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania found study participants were more likely to seek out advice and less likely to determine if that advice was good or bad when they were made to feel anxious. [i]

In a follow up study they also discovered participants who were made to feel anxious were more open to, and more likely to rely on advice, even when they know the person offering the advice had a conflict of interest.

Talk about music to Wall Street’s ear, but don’t start getting anxious already.

The authors offered two steps to help reduce the natural tendencies we experience when stressed — being more receptive to advice and less discriminating of the advice given.

1)      Refrain from making major decisions until you are in a relaxed state and can clearly reflect on the matter at hand.

2)      Avoid making a quick decision or obsessing over details. Using a metaphor from golfing, rather than focusing on the endless details of the perfect shot — such as the correct club, proper grip, turning your shoulders just so, and so on — it may be more helpful to focus on the more important outcome: where you want the shot to land.

In addition, I am offering a third:

3)      Get used to it.

I used to hate ordering wine at restaurants. I always felt rushed by Mr. Fancy Pants Wine List Guy as he stood next to me, waiting for me to try to make a decision in what felt like two seconds between rows of wines I knew next to nothing about.

Now, I am proud to say I have had enough wine to know what I like and do not like as well as what a reasonable price is to pay for those wines.

The point is, if you do not do something often enough, it is difficult to become comfortable and knowledgeable doing it especially when you are under pressure.



[i] Anxiety, Advice, and the Ability to Discern: Feeling Anxious Motivates Individuals to Seek and Use Advice. Francesca Gino, Harvard University. Alison Wood Brooks and Maurice E. Schweitzer, University of Pennsylvania

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