Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

A Personal Experience on the Difficulties of Giving and Accepting Advice

Posted by Steve on July 14, 2008

So it has been a little since I posted a good ‘thinker’ of a post but luckily for those of you have been just dying to read one, here we go. This post has actually been with me for a few weeks now, it is a continuation, in the form of a personal example, of why it is SO difficult to give advice. I am going to layout the events of what happened, then I will go into what I was thinking and feeling during the conversation in the following paragraph.

I was at the gym doing dead lifts, possibly one of the more difficult exercises to self monitor as far as form goes. I guess when I was doing the exercise my form was a little off, and with the amount of weight I was doing, it could have possibly gone poorly. So this was when one of the personal trainers who works at the gym comes up to me and says something to the effect of “Hey man, now I don’t mean to intrude or anything, but I think you need to focus a little more on your form.” I tell him that I was unaware that my form was off, he goes on to explain how I should be doing (like I don’t know), he also acknowledges that I am pushing a lot of weight, and that he does not want to diminish that fact. I simply say yes thank you, I will keep closer look in the future. He must have picked up on the fact that I wasn’t listening that closely because he kept going on about the dangers of not doing the exercise properly, and that if I focused on form, I would get the same benefits with less weight. I concluded the conversation by saying thank you and that I would make sure to try that next time.

So during this whole conversation, I was very very defensive, I acknowledged the fact that I probably did have bad form for the last few reps, and then thats all I wanted to hear. I stopped listening about 5 seconds into the conversation, and kept getting more and more agitated as he kept pushing at it; I was even aware that I was doing it, but that didnt matter! The most interesting thing is that I felt that way despite the fact that he did almost everything right:

He apologized for interrupting me,
He was in a position to know better (he is a personal trainer)
He tried to stroke the ego by mentioning the weight I was pushing
He provided reasoning behind why I should focus on form and how it wouldn’t effect my workout

He did almost everything right, yet I was still not receptive to anything he really had to say. This to me was very interesting, especially since I was aware of what was happening when he was telling me this. I then did some introspection, and I did find what it was that I took exception to, and it did have nothing to do with the personal trainer guy, it had to do with me, I don’t like to be wrong, even if I may be aware of it. I was proud of the weight I was doing, and then he came that I was doing it wrong, I was the wrong and in a public setting to boot. If this had been a private one on one training sessions and he had said I needed a little correction that would have been fine, but he pointed out that I was wrong in front of many people.

This was an interesting experience for me, because it demonstrated that there are times when you can do everything “right” but still not get the result you desire, even if you have the best intentions. The trainer guy just wanted to help me out, but I was having none of it, despite the fact he approached the situation almost perfectly. I would love to here other personal examples of when you got defensive when receiving advice or you noticed someone that was being difficult when you were giving advice because I find this topic very interesting, and every bit of experiential information helps to put this, sorry for the lame analogy, puzzle together.

–Steve

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3 Responses to “A Personal Experience on the Difficulties of Giving and Accepting Advice”

  1. aleccarnovale said

    Good column man.
    I totally agree – I find that when someone tries to give me advice there are two instinctive reactions: you either agree or disagree. The interesting thing is that I tend to pick which stance I’m going to take within the first five seconds of recieving advice, and then passively write-off everything else I hear since I’m so committed to my own opinion. But then again, if my opinion was worth trusting that much why would I need advice to begin with?

  2. Mo said

    I think you should have said that you will only listen if he pushes more iron then you do.

  3. Steve said

    Mo,

    Heh, that thought definitely enters my mind when people give me advice at the gym, although I try to ignore it (usually unsuccessfully, heh)

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