How Do You Take Advice? And Why Knowing Can Help You Practice Discernment Better

What’s your advice-taking tendency? As I was brainstorming this blog post, I texted a friend, asking, “how do you take advice?” and she replied, “not very well!”

I think many of us can relate. 🙂 Some of us just don’t enjoy receiving advice in almost any circumstance. Others of us tend to take advice from any and everyone, but then have trouble knowing our own minds.

How we take advice, like so many other aspects of our personalities, falls along a spectrum of tendencies, from one extreme of never accepting it, to the other of always taking it. If we know where we fall on that spectrum, that self-knowledge can help shift us toward balance and even make our practice of discernment better. 

How do you know where you fall on the advice-taking spectrum?

How do you know where you fall on the advice-taking spectrum? Here are some questions to help you know yourself better:

  • How often do you feel like you need advice? Do you ever feel like you need it? Always feel like you need it? Only in certain circumstances?
  • What’s your initial reaction to feeling like you might need advice? Hate it? Reject the idea of needing advice? Or grateful that you can seek advice? Are you angry or relieved?
  • How often do you want advice? Never? Always? Only in certain circumstances?
  • How do you approach advice-seeking when you have a decision to make? Do you take a poll of everyone you know? Go to an internet forum and soak up what everyone says? Feel like maybe you should ask someone but avoid it at all costs? Turn to certain people only?

If you’re a visual learner, it may help to draw a line on a piece of paper. Write “always” on one end of it, and “never” on the other. Now think back through the above questions and mark where you fall. You’ll probably see a consistent pattern in yourself when it comes to how you take advice.

Why is it important where you fall on the advice-taking spectrum?

Why is it important where you fall on the advice-taking spectrum? If you have the self-knowledge to know which way you tend, you can try to aim for some balance.  If you’re prone to imbibing every opinion on the internet, you know you need to limit your intake. If you’re inclined to reject anything but your own opinion, you know you might need to ask for help.

The problem with tending toward taking advice from anyone/ everyone is it may be difficult to sift out advice from people who actually do understand your circumstances, value the same things, etc., from the people who don’t. You may also find yourself unable to hear your own voice or know your own desires.

The solution is to try being more judicious about taking advice. Stop asking any and everyone what they think, and try to find a good listener and wise guide to approach. Decide what healthy boundaries you will set around the advice you receive. Give yourself space for prayer and silence: space to really listen to God and the desires of your own heart.

The problem with tending toward never wanting to take advice from anyone, or automatically rejecting advice when it’s given, is usually pride. It may be stopping you from learning from other’s experience, knowledge, and wisdom. It may even limit your ability to hear God’s voice.

The solution is to begin to accept your own limitations. Identify some people in your life who you think are wise and able to understand your situation. Open yourself up to seeking advice from those you trust. Be willing to learn from someone else. You don’t have to automatically accept everything they say, but try to quiet the instant-reject reflex in yourself. Pray for humility to be open to God’s voice.

How can knowing how we take advice help us practice discernment better?

Discernment is a process of sorting out things that are timely and untimely, relevant and irrelevant, helpful and unhelpful, for the questions we are facing. We need to be able to hear God’s voice, and that of our own souls. 

Sometimes, the voices of others are helpful for our discernment; sometimes they aren’t. Helpful advice moves us towards clarity; unhelpful advice clogs up our hearing. 

Knowing how we take advice allows us to figure out if we already tend to have a lot of extra noise and need to cut back on it; or if we actually could benefit from a bit of outside input.

In the practice of discernment, it’s important to be able to sort out what is God’s voice, what are the desires of our own hearts, what helps us hear those, and what is unnecessary noise. Knowing how we take advice is key to this sorting.