In this episode we talk about whether we should give advice to others, and if so, how to go about it. Do we have a moral imperative to offer advice to our friends if we think they're doing the wrong thing? Or should we simply 'let it be'? We try to figure out when it's appropriate to give advice to others, and come up with a helpful mental model for thinking about advice-giving.

Some of the highlights from our discussion:

We should always try to work out what the other person’s priorities are. Circumstance, worldview, opinions, religious beliefs can all affect how a person can arrive at a particular decision which makes giving advice difficult and context dependent. The key objective is to try to come to a shared decision about what’s in their best interests, taking into account a holistic range of factors. Ali mentions how we have a moral imperative to try to advise friends away from a course that wouldn’t serve them right for the rest of their lives but at the same time it’s important to recognise their own worldview rather than trying to solely impose your own if it’s not appropriate in that particular context.

It can be helpful for people to take the opposite view and give advice that you may find uncomfortable. Taimur talks about a situation when he was thinking of becoming a front-end software engineer. One of his friends who had experience in that realm was against him going down this path, encouraging him instead to go down the route of becoming a data scientist, even though it was significantly harder to do as a graduate. Ultimately, this advice had proven to be extremely valuable for Taimur who outlines how he was perhaps avoiding this avenue because he it seemed more difficult and having someone else persuade him against the alternative had helped him to take this seemingly more difficult route.

There are probably missed opportunities when, for fear of seeming unsupportive or for fear of seeming judgemental, people don’t often give the advice that their friends perhaps need. The default position is to be supportive and if your friends have no experience of that particular realm, we cannot reasonably expect them to give anything but supportive advice. However, there are no rights answers and so erring on the side of supporting people is probably the right thing to do.

It is the duty of the person receiving the advice to filter it as opposed to the duty of the position giving the advice to filter it. The person giving the advice is going to offer what they think is best but this might not align with your own worldview yet their advice could still be valuable in raising points of concern that perhaps you hadn’t considered.


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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.


Follow Not Overthinking on Twitter: https://twitter.com/noverthinking.

Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram