We’ve all had friends in toxic relationships that came to us for advice. As a third-party observer, we generally have a decent perspective from which to give our thoughts. But many of us have also been that friend—the person in the toxic relationship. In those situations, it’s much harder to give ourselves good advice. At least, it’s much harder to do what we know we should. Why is that? Why are we capable of giving reasonable advice to others but struggle to apply good advice in our own lives?
My colleague Ethan Kross and I ran a series of studies using Qualtrics to answer that very question. Our research disproved long-standing philosophical claims that wisdom comes solely through age and experience. As it turns out, looking at our own situations from an outsider’s perspective can help us channel the wisdom we need to make good choices for ourselves.