Is It Better To Give Or Receive?

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the holidays are officially here, we’ll all be reminded that it’s better to give than to receive. And when it comes to advice, it turns out the old saying is certainly true.

In a paper published in Psychological Science, authors Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, Ayelet Fishbach, and Angela Duckworth find that:

“…individuals struggling with goal achievement seek advice. However, in the present investigation (N = 2,274), struggling individuals were more motivated by giving advice than receiving it…Nevertheless, across domains, people erroneously predicted the opposite, expecting themselves and others to be less motivated by giving advice than receiving it…Giving advice motivated givers by raising their confidence—a reality that predictors fail to anticipate.”

Getting advice, they write, comes with a cost—it makes you feel incompetent. If you know nothing about a subject, the cost is outweighed by the benefit of new information. If, however, you have some idea about what you’re supposed to do and ask for advice anyway, you pay the cost with no added value to offset it.

But if you give advice, you can increase your confidence and motivation. It forces you to think through past successes and outline a strategy for getting from A to B…a strategy you can then follow.

Thankfully, when I started this blog, I had a big ego. I thought I was a lot better at improv than I really was. So I started giving advice. Advice that came, coincidentally, from classes I was teaching, not classes I was taking. And that led to virtuous cycle of creating rather than consuming.

As the authors point out in the article, I never would have thought that giving advice would be motivating. But it makes perfect sense. Watching a Ted Talk or reading a how-to is rarely enough to inspire me. Conversations, podcast interviews, improv classes, writing to readers or writing blog posts, on the other hand, always gets me in the right mindset.

A lot of people won’t start a blog or podcast or give advice because they don’t feel like they’re an expert in their field. But waiting isn’t the answer. If you read this blog every week, and you’re holding out for some magic bullet that will finally give you the confidence you need to get started, you’ll be waiting forever. Ironically, the best thing to do would be to stop reading and start sharing.


Each Monday, I share strategies to help you master your limited time, get started, and build creative habits that stick. Try it. You’ll like it.

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