Study- Advice Giving: A Subtle Pathway to Power (and abuse)
This research offers insight into why a client-centered approach, truly letting the client make decisions, can help avoid ethical problems. The researchers found that people with a high tendency to seek power are more likely to give advice than those with a low tendency, and that giving advice enhances a feeling of power. In other words, it suggests that people give advice to fulfill their own need to feel powerful. This offers a strong implication that people who give advice at at risk of structuring their advice around their own needs, not the needs of the person who is receiving advice.
When an advisor says “You should do this…”, there is a risk that the advice is based on rule-sets, logic components, and contexts that are important to the advice giver. For example, if an advisor who has done well investing in stocks says “You should invest in the stock market”, but the client has a morbid fear (based on some valid life experience) of the stock market, the advice enhances the feeling of power (and perhaps sense of control) in the advisor, but leads to increased anxiety and loss of control in the client. If the advisor took time to explore the client’s concerns, feelings, fears, and perhaps experiences, the advisor might come to understand the client’s need to invest in property or something else. The advisor and client might also uncover a particular concern or misunderstanding of the client that can be addressed, and once addressed the client may be able to come to a decision that allows some or even significant ability to invest in stocks. (This example is not meant to offer investing advice nor is it intended to suggest anyone should invest in the stock market.)
A point this research highlights is that advisors are always at risk of interjecting their own perspective and needs into a client conversation. Taking a true and pure client-centered approach is one technique to help advisors minimize this potential problem. From ICCI’s perspective, when it is possible, the best option for advisors, counselors, lawyers, etc., is to explore the issues with the client, use skilled listening techniques (such as Integrative Listening), seek to understand the client and their needs, and then assist the client to make optimal decisions given their needs and abilities.
Advice Giving: A Subtle Pathway to Power
Michael Schaerer, Leigh P. Tost, Li Huang, Francesca Gino, Rick Larrick
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, First Published January 23, 2018
We propose that interpersonal behaviors can activate feelings of power, and we examine this idea in the context of advice giving. Specifically, we show (a) that advice giving is an interpersonal behavior that enhances individuals’ sense of power and (b) that those who seek power are motivated to engage in advice giving. Four studies, including two experiments (N = 290, N = 188), an organization-based field study (N = 94), and a negotiation simulation (N = 124), demonstrate that giving advice enhances the adviser’s sense of power because it gives the adviser perceived influence over others’ actions. Two of our studies further demonstrate that people with a high tendency to seek power are more likely to give advice than those with a low tendency. This research establishes advice giving as a subtle route to a sense of power, shows that the desire to feel powerful motivates advice giving, and highlights the dynamic interplay between power and advice.