Solomon's paradox: good at giving advice

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Louise Hay

Solomon's paradox: good at giving advice

Always give good advice to others, but don't know what to do when when you have a problem? This is a fairly common phenomenon because, after all, managing your own challenges is more complex, if only because we have more information available.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2022

Solomon's paradox defines a behavior with which many of us can feel identified. It occurs when you are particularly good at giving advice, when you show great disposition, resourcefulness and empathy and are always able to find the right and appropriate words. The same skills, however, are useless to ourselves.

This idea perfectly defines the classic saying “preach well and scratch badly”. Because, let's face it, it is sometimes easier to evaluate and act from someone else's perspective than to take responsibility. It seems more relaxing, and even interesting, to reflect on the worlds described by others than to take responsibility for your own actions.

If this is our biggest problem, if we have been each other's best friend and our own worst enemy for years, it is worth knowing that there is a solution. There is a valid strategy to avoid this curious (but common) paradox.

What is Solomon's paradox?

When we pronounce the name of King Solomon, we immediately think of a figure of great wisdom. Legend has it that people took long journeys from distant cities just to ask him for advice. Of advice in his life, in fact, King Solomon gave many and all appropriate, so much so that his original and brilliant way of reasoning earned him fame and admiration all over the world.

Yet, while giving wise advice, Solomon led a life that was not very virtuous and even inappropriate. He made many bad decisions, showed an inordinate passion for money and women and, above all, did not educate his only son. For all these reasons, his reign was short and tormented. This is why we talk about the Solomon paradox.

Why are we better at other people's problems?

Some people are particularly inclined to give advice and are used to being a shoulder to cry on. They are good at offering support and giving advice. But that's not all: their suggestions and recommendations stimulate action and help you face daily challenges on your own.

The wit and logic they so generously reserve for others vanish when it comes to themselves. People who are victims of Solomon's paradox, commit the most obvious mistakes, adopt the least appropriate behaviors. Why does this happen? Why do they give valuable advice to others and are unable to do it with themselves?

  • The secret is psychological distance. When we are not involved in the situation for which another person asks us for advice, we see things more clearly and know how to recognize the most appropriate strategy.
  • The mind that sees things in perspective, but detached from the inner universe, perceives more options and more solutions to problems. It is like an outside observer who senses what others do not perceive, who becomes an ideal hunter of ideas until, unfortunately, he has nothing to do with himself.

The curious cognitive bias of Solomon's paradox

We all feel affection for our friends, family and loved ones who have always sought our advice. Solomon's paradox hides a cognitive bias: we think better if certain dynamics do not concern us personally.

It is easy to say to others: “You must have courage, life is too short to remain a prisoner of fear; in this way you will lose the best opportunities, change your attitude ”. Undoubtedly an effective, sparkling and even stimulating advice. Yet, if we find ourselves at a crossroads, it will not help us to say to ourselves: "Come on, be brave and dare".

The mind does not act with such alacrity and resoluteness when adversity has repercussions on our life. When we find ourselves in trouble, thought is trapped in the web of fear, in the trap of insecurities and in the labyrinth of defense mechanisms. So sometimes we run out of advice for ourselves.

How to use the reserves of wisdom for one's own challenges and problems?

It would indeed be helpful to keep King Solomon's wisdom for ourselves. So as to be our best advisors, skilled coaches for the inner self, guru of good advice, of the most infallible decision-making process. How to do it?

Igor Grossman is a University of Michigan psychologist expert in the study of wisdom who has thoroughly analyzed the Solomon paradox. In his search for him, Grossman points out that perhaps the celebrated king of Israel would have lived better if he had imagined traveling to seek advice from another wise king. What does this mean?

An effective strategy to find solutions to our daily challenges could be imagine, for a moment, that the problem is not ours, but someone else's. In this way we will apply the technique of psychological distance, that precious and effective resource that amplifies ideas, enlarges the perspective and makes us see new options and possibilities.

Even asking yourself questions in the second person like: "Why do you feel this way?", "What could you do to feel better?", Acts as an effective catalyst for find solutions and finally act as our best allies in times of need. We just have to put these useful tips into practice!

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