How To Tell The Difference Between Good And Bad Advice

There’s a lot of advice out there on there internet — some of it here on Lifehacker — and it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether it’s good or bad. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to help separate the two.

Photo by Nimish Gogri

Sometimes we want to take what may be bad advice because it promises to solve a problem, and we feel we have nothing to lose (but our time) if we try it. Sometimes we’re just a victim to our confirmation bias. When advice promises an answer, it can be hard to pass up — especially if it fits some of our already held beliefs. As Dr Heidi Grant Halvorson points out, over at Psychology Today, how we feel about a specific piece of advice doesn’t make it good. She suggests that there are two main things that differentiate good advice from bad:

  • Good advice is true. This may seem obvious, but a lot of advice comes with no evidence whatsoever, and that certainly doesn’t help its chances of being true. We can often ignore a lack of evidence when we want to believe something is true, but looking for that evidence is important.
  • Good advice is concrete and comes with actionable steps. Like we discussed in our problem-solving guide, you can’t just leap straight to point B. If advice doesn’t come with any steps in between the starting point and the goal, it’s probably not going to be all that helpful.

What this comes down to is that you need to be careful about giving advice based only on your personal experience, or taking advice that comes only from someone else’s personal experience. We’ve probably all done this before. I know I have before. It can be hard to avoid, but by keeping those two things in mind may help make it easier. (And if you want a little evidence, check out the full post over at Psychology Today.)

The Difference Between Good and Bad Advice [Psychology Today]

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