Expert or Friend: Whose Advice Are You Taking?

“Two "one-way" signs with arrows going different ways on a street in New York” by Brendan Church on Unsplash

The Situation: Imagine you’re faced with a perplexing decision — a decision you cannot make based off your own experience, knowledge, and opinion. You must confide in someone else… but who are you turning to for help?

  • Is it the expert? The guy who comes ready to lay down cold hard facts, stats, and case studies?


  • Do you seek out advice from a friend? Someone who’s comforting, relatable, and really understands you.

1.) The Expert — Alec

Fact don’t lie. Statistics tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

They have no biases or prejudices, which at times, is incredibly useful.

However, numbers are expressionless which makes them difficult to solely trust as a conscious human being.

So yeah, I’m more likely to trust the expert because I respect their knowledge and experience. (Thanks to the data.) But I can see how leaning in this “statistical direction” could be viewed as insensitive. Someone’s saying:

You’re more likely to act upon the advice if it comes from a close friend or relative, right?

Well yeah, that is right.

So as most people given this situation would say, it’s a mixture of both I’d prefer. Someone both well-read and accurate, but also compassionate and understanding of what’s best for me personally.

But, if I could only pick one, it’d be the proven facts and stats.

2.) Neither! — Jordan

I know, controversial right?

While I’d appreciate both viewpoints from a friend and an expert, I come from a place where all advice is inherently incorrect…

Let’s break this down.

The expert:

While I’m overall more likely to take the advice of an expert over the advice of a friend, it’s important to understand that no expert is really an expert.

Remember when the “experts” said Hillary Clinton would be the next president? Or when they said the UK wouldn’t leave the EU? Remember the “experts” who said Leicester City wouldn’t win the Premier League… Oh and remember climate change isn’t real?

Even statistics and case studies hold a small percentage of uncertainty.

It takes one look at the whole “chocolate = weight-loss” ordeal to see how things don’t always add up once you consider the presence of a confounding variable.

Have a look at these graphs if you really want to see how ridiculous statistics can get…

The friend:

Friends are generally similar to you and can relate their advice specific to your cause. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

It’s almost impossible for your friend to remain impartial when giving advice, as they’re either looking to avoid hurting you or to gain something themselves. Friends are also invested in keeping you the same, so subconsciously you should expect their advice to be tailored to you in the present, as opposed to the you in 5–10 years time.

It’s also likely your friend isn’t much more equipped to make this decision than you are. Their opinion is probably just as useful as yours…

My ideal case, in any circumstance, would be to speak and confide in neutral — whether that be a friend of a friend or some stranger I bumped into at the bar on Friday night.

I remember when all my friends said blogging would take too much time away from my studies and when “blogging experts” said it would take years to be successful.

I was better off not even trying it…

It wasn’t until my partially drunk conversation with an Uber driver that made me realise I could do both things very easily if I put my mind and time to it.

3.) Depends… — John

How much do I currently know?

Conversely, how do I feel about it?

Depending on what I currently have — knowledge or intuition — I’d want to get advice from someone who will complement what I have.

If I…

- have sufficient knowledge but I’m uncertain:

Despite my sufficient knowledge of the situation, I’d ask a friend for advice. Most of my friends think like me, so hearing their perspective would help me develop a second opinion based on similar thinking.

- don’t know much and I’m uncertain:

I know when I don’t know enough. And if I don’t know enough, I find ways to know more. An informed decision is always a better decision.

If I have to choose between good advice and good information, I’d go for the latter.

4.) Do Both! — Nicole

While it may appear overwhelming, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with considering both the expert and the relatable friend. Both parties bring something to the table. This means more mental food for thought, yum!

The expert has the hard facts, studies, and literature to support their claims. In the age of the Internet, there’s an influx of pseudo-facts floating around. It’s honestly painful watching some people fall for it.

So, it’s never a bad idea to consider the recommendations of an expert. They already put in the time and research. But, while the expert may appear to have all of the information (unless they include examples from their personal experience), they may not know the best decision for you.

Now, this is where the relatable friend comes in…

The relatable friend can provide a first-hand experience on the expert’s claim. Depending on the advice, you would see how the expert’s advice compares in real life as opposed to just a piece of informational content.

Also, experts are humans — they make flaws too. Sometimes, things aren’t one size-fits-all and the expert may not provide alternatives for you specifically.

With a diversity of opinions, thoughts, and experiences, the truth typically lies somewhere in the middle. This is probably where the best advice comes from.

Thanks for reading Cover Brands! Who do you agree with most? Shout-out to Nicole Cooper, John Lugtu, and Jordan Ebert! They rock. Be sure to clap and give each of them a follow.

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.

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Alec Zaffiro

Alec Zaffiro

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.

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