Researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania carried out a series of experiments involving 2,274 participants, which looked at boosting an individual’s motivation in a variety of situations, including improving study habits, saving money, controlling tempers, losing weight, and looking for jobs.
The results consistently showed, across the experiments, that people struggling with motivation benefited more from giving advice than receiving it, despite the fact that most people often believe the opposite to be true, and they need expert advice in order to succeed.
The researchers explained that simply being asked for advice can boost our confidence, which could increase our motivation, or help restore part of the confidence we lose when we routinely fail to meet our goals. This is important as confident people set higher goals for themselves and remain more committed to them over time, they added.
In addition, in order to give advice, people need to sort through their thoughts, find examples of what that has worked successfully for them in the past, and make a recommendation, an exercise also likely to boost confidence.
The team added, “In the process of giving advice, advisors may form specific intentions and lay out concrete plans of action — both of which increase motivation and achievement.”
Moreover, “when people lack motivation, receiving advice may actually be harmful,” said the researchers, “Receiving help can feel stigmatizing because it undermines feelings of competence.”
“We hope our findings, which illuminate the motivational power of giving, do just that: goad scientists and practitioners to consider the ways in which struggling individuals benefit from giving,” the authors wrote.
“Indeed, our research provides empirical support for an age-old aphorism: it is in giving that we receive.”
The findings will be published in a forthcoming paper in the journal Psychological Science.