Why It’s Good The Audience Doesn’t Listen

Has anyone noticed that some people seek help but aren’t inclined to follow solid advice, a reader asked on one of my Google+ posts.

I have noticed, I told him. But I didn’t go into depth since that’s a topic that I feel is worthy of a full post.

Numerous people have asked me, in one way or another, whether it’s frustrating when people don’t listen to what I say in articles. The answer is no.

I write knowing that some people who read genuinely want direction. They’ll research, take notes and try their best to follow the advice they believe in. But I also write knowing that most people will not apply the advice they’re given no matter how solid it is.

This isn’t just the case for me. There’s a broad range of professionals in the business of offering advice for a living—writers, speakers, life coaches, consultants—and if you were to conduct a survey across those industries, you’d find that ignoring advice is very common.

The reality is, “advice giving usually doesn’t work,” author and psychology professor Tim Maurer Ph.D. wrote in a Psychology Today article.

But that shouldn’t frustrate us. It’s a good thing, one we should deeply appreciate.

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Hardheads create a healthy market. They have an insatiable hunger that you can keep feeding and feeding. From a financial standpoint, they’re more valuable than people who apply what they learn.

Think about the self-help readers. If these people did what they were advised to do and stuck to it, there wouldn’t be much of an industry. Authors who have built a name and made a living from writing series of self-help books would have to find something else to do. It would be a one-and-done deal. With a single book, the audience would be cured.

Another example is personal finance writers. If the average reader followed advice and started handling their money wisely, this very popular freelance and book-writing niche would be a wasteland. Financial superstars, like Suze Orman, wouldn’t exist.

But because people are going to keep making poor financial decisions,   writers can keep cranking out endless amounts content about the same topics—retirement, savings, debt, etc.

I’ll bet each of us has come across advice that could improve some aspect of our lives, but instead of applying it, we kept doing what we were doing. Apparently, acting that way is one of the ironies of human nature.

Maurer said research shows whenever people tell us what to do and how to do it, we respond with “a defensive defiance.” We view it as a threat to enjoying maximum personal freedom and decision making, he explained.

If you provide advice in any form—books, blogs, seminars, etc.—don’t take it personally when people don’t listen to you. Don’t get frustrated that you need to cover the same topics over and over with your audience. It makes your job easier, and it keeps what you offer relevant and timely.

People want to be masters of their minds and of their lives. They want to believe any positive results they get stem from self-direction. But because people commonly don’t get the results they would like, they keep coming back for advice. It’s a merry-go-round and all the hardheads riding it keep many of us afloat. So, remember to be grateful for them.

Besides, one day, the people who haven’t been listening may change their ways. Maybe they just need to have advice pounded into their heads 50 or 100 times. Some people learn through repetition, you know?