Help Wanted: The Upside of Seeking Advice

Several people holding their hands in the air
Thomas Northcut/Getty Images

It’s tough to admit that you don’t know something or need help solving a problem. Who wants to look like the class fool, right? But new research from the Harvard Business School (HBS) shows that raising your hand actually comes across as a sign of warmth and competence.

In one of two related HBS studies, for example, students were asked to complete challenging brainteasers while paired with an anonymous partner — which turned out to be a computer program. That partner sent each student a message. For some, the message was, “I hope it went well.” For others it was, “Do you have any advice?”

To learn more, check out this article on friendship: 8 Ways to Give Great Advice to a Friend

At the end, the students were asked to rate their partner’s competence. The ones with the higher ratings? The partners who asked for advice.

How come? Researchers think that asking for help could signal vulnerability and increase trust. Additionally, as tough as it is to ask for help, most people love extending a hand to others.

"Seeking advice is likely to be particularly beneficial for older adults,” says Alison Wood Brooks, who coauthored the research. “Young people have access to lots of new, fresh, current ideas and knowledge, and I think young people are particularly flattered to be asked for advice from someone who is older, wiser and potentially higher-status than them.”

To find out more, read Don't Fret: Seeking Advice May Be Seen as a Sign of Competence

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

Search AARP Blogs
Related Posts
August 31, 2021 02:39 PM
Research shows that if you’re feeling time-crunched, try spending time on others rather than yourself to give yourself the feeling of having more time.
August 27, 2021 09:52 AM
Making life goals and working to achieve them not only gives us things to look forward to but also may help both brain health and longevity.
August 25, 2021 04:37 PM
Losing sleep due to stress and anxiety? You are not tossing and turning alone. Try some of these techniques to try to break the stressful cycle.