Five Reasons Why People Don't Listen to Advice
Do you get frustrated when you try to help friends solve their problems and they don’t listen?
I’ll explain what I had learned about people who don't want to take advice and I’ll give you five reasons why they don’t, as I figured out from repeated circumstances.
Many people come to me for advice, but when I try to offer positive guidance I find that there are two attitudes people have:
- There are those who accept the advice, but do nothing with it. They never follow up and I have noticed these people rarely succeed at accomplishing anything. They usually end up making their lives miserable instead.
- Then there are those who consider the advice, think it through, and do something with it. Many with this attitude even go beyond my suggestion. I see these people improving their lives.
I get frustrated when a friend lets things go downhill, especially when I offer a solution. I explain how to avoid the problems developing in their lives, but they let it happen anyway. They ignore the advice and my predictions come true.
There is nothing that can be done for these people. Many times I need to back off and sadly watch them sink deeper into trouble. I think that’s what they really want. I’ll explain what I mean with a couple of examples.
Some people set themselves up for failure. I have noticed that these types of people will never listen to a friend giving advice. They are somehow programmed to continue their path towards failure.
The way I see it, they don’t think it through. They just let their lives deteriorate. They don’t do anything to improve their lives or to solve their own problems.
How Do People Perceive Their Reality?
I think people who don't take advice see their reality differently.
- We look at their lives with the clarity that comes from being uninvolved.
- They observe things as they wish it would be, and they miss what's important.
They are totally involved in their own affairs, so they tend to distort reality to suit their own needs with their own personal boundaries.
We can show them the direction, but they need to start by taking responsibility for their own actions. Some will never recognize that they create their own failures. I consider this a narcissistic trait.
I have a friend with diabetes. He likes to walk around barefoot.
I told him that with the diabetes he could get gangrene if he steps on something and gets an infection. I explained that he could lose a foot.
His ex-wife gave him slippers, but he was so upset we told him what to do that he threw them out.
One day out of anger he threw something at a wall, shattering it into pieces. One day he stepped on the debris and got an infection. He ended up having his foot amputated.
Disagreeing with the Reason for the Advice Due to Denial
If someone accepts that they are responsible for their own failures, they can adjust their behavior and plan a new strategy. They have no problem accepting any new ideas presented to them.
However, if they are in denial, then they will not see the usefulness of the advice. They are stuck with their inability to solve problems.
One reason I noticed that people don’t listen is because they lack the skills necessary to think it through to plan a solution. When a solution is presented to them, they don't see it.
Even when telling them how to solve their problem, they will disagree with the reasons for taking action. They are frightened of change and they are unwilling to try something different.
Sad to say, I see this attitude with friends who are going nowhere with their lives. Their present way of doing things isn't working, but they come up with excuses and they argue that it's because of other reasons beyond their control. I call this denial.
Example of Denial
A friend with an accounting business asked for advice. She told me she wouldn’t be able to pay her rent because she’s losing clients.
I told her that her office was making a bad impression. I recommended that she clean up her office. I explained that an orderly office would imply an orderly tax report.
She argued that she had no clients because everyone is using TurboTax.
She didn’t clean up, had no clients, couldn’t pay the rent, her landlord evicted her and she lost her business.
Five Reasons Why People Don't Take Advice
There are many reasons why people don’t listen. Having given some thought to this and observing the outcome with friends who don't listen, I have narrowed it down to five reasons...
 They don't value their own life or their business:
I think people will make time for the things they value. I know I do.
My friend who lost his foot didn’t value his own life. I really have to believe that. The accountant didn’t value her business.
 They have a fear of success:
This is a well-known one. I can think of things I’ve avoided for fear of success. However, as far as I can tell, it’s really fear of the unknown.
Whenever I had avoided something early in life, it was because I didn’t know the outcome. Somewhere along the way I started to notice that things always turned out okay. That gave me the courage to get involved with new and unknown things.
The main problem I see with people who fear success is that they are hoping it will all work out anyway -- all by itself -- one way or the other.
 They are in denial:
Denial interferes with the ability to act rationally.
I had a female friend who told me her boyfriend proposed to her. From a previous discussion with him, I knew that he was going to want to live off her money. I warned her against marrying him. I even reminded her that she overheard the way he was talking about it. Nevertheless, she was in denial and refused to believe the truth.
A month after the wedding she called me, crying, and said they had a fight. I asked what happened. She told me he wanted her to pay all the bills. His reasoning was that they are living in her apartment so she should pay all the bills. Imagine that?
 They don't have a time perspective:
They have no clue of time span. These are the same people who are always late. Have you ever noticed that people who arrive late and keep people waiting also never succeed in achieving something that’s important to them in their own lives?
In order to accomplish tasks, we need to have a clear vision of how long it will take. Then we need to plan each step to fit the allotted time available.
If we ignore the problem and just let time pass, or if we don’t clearly figure out how long it will take to get from A to B, then we are doomed for failure.
I see this problem with some friends who say they understand what I’m telling them to do. They agree that it sounds like a solution to their dilemma. The only problem is, the next time I talk with them, they still haven’t started and the end is near.
 They want approval for doing things wrong:
I think this is the worst of all. An acquaintance I’ve known through my social circles once called and asked for help. She said she is being arrested.
I asked for details so that I can know how to help her. She explained that her boyfriend broke up with her and that she was calling him several times a day leaving messages asking for an explanation.
He had put out a restraining order and she still continued, so he put out a warrant for her arrest.
I responded with one simple question. I said, “I need to understand something, do you want me to help you?”
I needed to be sure that she indeed wanted help. She said she did.
Therefore, I proceeded to tell her what to do. I said, “Just stop. Stop calling him. Stop thinking about him. Stop and move on.”
She was extremely disappointed with me. She said she was hoping I would defend her and support her feelings. Instead she felt that I was attacking her.
Oh, feelings. I feel for her. I feel for all my friends who don’t listen and suffer because of it. Don’t you? I have love and compassion when it fits, but I believe in tough love when they are going down hill and need to be woken up.
There are times when we must back off and realize that they don’t want help. They just want approval for failure.
Only friends can help you, but what you need is an enemy.
So I told her...
“I’m so sorry. I misunderstood. I thought you wanted help. I understand now that all you really want is support for failure. Only friends can help you, but what you need is an enemy. Someone who does not care for you will be glad to support your failure.”
I'll leave you with this video that sums it up quite well...
Well, I explained what I had learned about people who don't want to take advice. I also gave you five reasons why they chose not to take advice to improve their situations.
I'll leave you with this humorous video that sums it up quite well. Thanks for spending this time with me.
It's Not About The Nail - Video
© 2012 Glenn Stok