Why Experience Sharing Is Better than Giving Advice

People don’t always like to be told what to do.

In the pursuit of helping others, we can tend to volunteer unasked-for advice when they weren’t actually asking for it. Although they might benefit from receiving advice, they might also be too distracted by your obtuseness to really hear your words.

This is why we think it’s much more effective to try experience sharing.

In this post, we’ll explore this thought-provoking theme, dissecting the dissect experience sharing versus advice giving, and uncover the profound reasons behind the appeal to shared experiences.

Kim Cooper
Director of Marketing, Amazon Alexa

Single Grain enables us to increase our impact without increasing our headcount

Empower Through Sharing

What Is Experience Sharing

Experience sharing refers to the act of individuals conveying their personal experiences, insights, lessons and observations to others, often with the intention of imparting knowledge and understanding. 

Experience sharing is not just an exchange of anecdotes; it’s an immersive journey into the trenches of human existence.

This isn’t the casual chatter you’d share with your closest confidants. It’s the unfiltered revelation of life’s most challenging moments. Think of it as a platform where the cloak of vulnerability is worn proudly, where individuals bear their souls to their peers, unearthing the struggles, the triumphs and the complexities that lie beneath the surface.

In this setting, people uncover parts of their lives that may otherwise remain hidden. They confess to struggles that gnaw at their business ventures, relationships and personal development. It’s a space where authenticity thrives, where shared experiences knit the bonds of camaraderie even tighter:

Experience: Why it Beats Advice - Shikhar Sachdev

Not to mention – it can be one of the best backbones in forming trust with someone who isn’t forward or pushy.

The contrasting approaches between experience sharing and advice giving have ignited fervent debates, with some arguing that direct advice can be more compelling than storytelling. On the flip side, some believe sharing a personal story about something can help guide people toward the right actions more effectively than being told exactly what to do.

The Intricacies of Advice: A Double-Edged Sword

To be fair, there’s a lot of virtue in offering advice to people, especially when they don’t know they need it. But be careful, because it can be a slippery slope. Why? The answer lies in the inherent responsibility that accompanies advice.

When advice is given, it carries with it an air of certainty, a conviction that can either pave a smooth road to success or lead one astray. The gravity of being the bearer of such responsibility can weigh heavily on people and, if acting on the advice doesn’t produce the projected outcome, can damage one’s reputation and credibility.

For example, if you were to take legal advice from a licensed lawyer and it turned out the advice didn’t apply to your situation or the advice was straight up wrong, you would likely lose trust in that particular lawyer’s judgment and ability to interpret your circumstance.

The same effect extends to practically any context.

In contrast, when we share a personal experience, we offer a glimpse into a moment of our lives, unburdened by the weight of expectation. It’s more an illustration of how you got to where you are and what steps you took to fail and succeed along the way.

And when you do it this way, you aren’t compelling anyone to do anything in a particular way. You’re merely recanting your own experience in the hopes that they might notice the central theme of what got you to where you are now. It allows the listener to hear your version of what they’re currently going through and come to their own conclusions.

Stories: The Building Blocks of Wisdom

Let us now pivot to the heart of experience sharing: the art of storytelling.

Unlike advice, which is colored by personal biases (“you should do this because I did it and it worked for me”), shared experiences stand alone as a testament to raw, unfiltered wisdom. It’s more of an expression of how action A led to outcome B rather than the actual outcome itself.

Stories can be one of the most powerful learning tools. They help us make our circumstances better known to others. It can be a great way of teaching somebody something or helping people understand yourself better.

Personal stories are among the most powerful learning tools because they appeal to various aspects of human cognition, emotion, and social interaction. For example:

  • Emotional Engagement: Stories often evoke strong emotions, and emotions can significantly enhance memory and retention. When we’re moved by a story, we’re more likely to remember the lesson or message it conveys.
  • Relatability: Personal stories often present scenarios or feelings that listeners can relate to. This relatability makes the content more memorable because it connects to the listener’s own experiences.
  • Simplification of Complex Ideas: A well-told story can simplify complex ideas or concepts, making them more accessible. By weaving information into a narrative, stories can provide context and relevance, which aids understanding.
  • Neurological Wiring: The human brain is wired for stories. Narrative thinking is a fundamental way we make sense of the world, so stories naturally align with our cognitive processes.

Navigating the Labyrinth: Balancing Insights and Independence

Often, the inclination to chart one’s own course, even when guided by well-intentioned advice, stems from the innate need to sculpt one’s individual narrative.

In this dance between advice and independence, shared experiences are a more hands-off way of guiding someone through an actual scenario that could also apply to them. The emphasis here is allowing individuals to create their own destinies without the encumbrance of external expectations.

Even if your personal experience isn’t directly applicable to the person listening to you, you can never know if just one facet or detail of your story will resonate with their own position, helping them in a small way to understand what they need to do.

In this dynamic interplay, the realms of advice and experience sharing find a harmonious balance.

While advice offers a roadmap grounded in knowledge and expertise, shared experiences extend a hand that invites individuals to embark on their unique journeys, unencumbered by the weight of predetermined outcomes.

Final Thoughts on How Experience Sharing Can Help You Win People Over

When the situation calls for it, straightforward advice can be warranted, but in nine out of ten cases, it has to be asked for. In all other cases, you’ll probably have better luck getting people to actually hear what you say when you broach it from a perspective of sharing your own personal experience, not implying it’s what they ought to do.

You may even find that your own experience sharing will help the listener realize what they shouldn’t do.

With that, we encourage you to try a more reserved approach to lending guidance to people. Give them the freedom to think more introspectively and arrive at their conclusions on their own. We promise you’ll endear a lot more people to your perspective when they don’t even realize it was inspired by you in the first place!

Empower Through Sharing


Repurposed from our Marketing School podcast.

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