Are You Asking for Decision-Making Advice or Validation?

Alex Yang
4 min readApr 16, 2024
Episode 4 of How I Decided is out now!

Consulting your friends for advice is one of the most common strategies for thinking through a decision. But what happens when your friends challenge your current thinking, or recommend a choice that you weren’t leaning towards?

In Episode 4 of the How I Decided podcast, my guest Adam was living in Seattle and deciding whether to move to NYC, where he had grown up and went to college. Adam described how he was actually leaning towards moving to NYC, but he then had conversations with friends who urged him to challenge himself and stay in Seattle. First off, it sounds like Adam has some great friends. Selfishly, they probably wanted Adam to come to NYC so that they could see him more, but it seems like they wanted what they felt was best for him. Adam’s friends made some very valid points about stepping out of his comfort zone and trying to invest in relationships in Seattle.

However, these points really got Adam to start to think long and hard about his decision again, in what he describes as “a few weeks without sleeping well.”

I can understand how this situation can be frustrating. In a big decision I made recently, I felt like I was leaning towards making a decision and in a conversation with a friend he started discussing reasons why I shouldn’t make that choice. I ended up finishing our call feeling more unsure of myself than ever before. And a part of me was frustrated. I felt that my friend just threw a wrench in my decision-making process” “Why did I even have this stupid conversation in the first place? Screw this guy for being so smart and objective.”

But later I started to dig into why I was so upset. It was because I came into the conversation secretly hoping that my friend would tell me that the choice I was leaning towards was the correct one. When he didn’t, I was disappointed. The problem was my expectation on what I was getting out of the conversation. If my hope and expectation was to be validated, then I was bound to be disappointed by my friend who was truly looking out for me and wanted me to consider all the upsides and downsides. But if my hope was to get an unbiased outside perspective, then I would’ve seen how useful and helpful our conversation was.

In making tough decisions, we are in a constant battle of wanting to acquire more info to make our decision, yet knowing that additional info may slow our decision-making process down. In fear of having to take longer to decide, we want to take the easy way out and expect others to validate our thoughts. We want to eliminate opposing views so we can feel like we’re slowly making progress towards deciding. I was guilty of this every time I wrote a research paper in high school or college — I would only seek out sources that confirmed my thesis, so that I would effectively have to do less work.

This is a feeling that we have to fight. We should want to seek out opposing views and consider their validity, because it can allow us to see things that we may have missed before and allow us to make more informed decisions. Are there diminishing returns as you start to consult more and more friends for advice? Of course! By your 15th conversation I don’t know if you’re getting much out of it. But if you’re consulting those first few friends who know you extremely well, before you talk with them really sit down with yourself and ask whether you just want your friend to affirm your perspective or if you truly want their advice.

Remember that having this conversation with your friend is somewhat of a sacred moment you should cherish — here you have someone who knows you really well and also cares enough about you to provide their objective view on your situation. I found that in my personal experience of consulting friends for decision-making advice I’m often reminded of how lucky I am to have such great people in my life.

So don’t let that go to waste. Understanding whether you want advice or validation can be the difference between you leaving your conversation frustrated, or leaving your conversation feeling grateful for your friends.

Making a tough decision? On my podcast How I Decided, you can learn more about decision-making from the stories of others who’ve made difficult life decisions.

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0gauxb5whs5KbQdKpHi5xz?si=ade060e7b751433d

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC093_OLW1lV1SM-xS6b22DA

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Alex Yang

How I Decided Podcast | Articles about Career Choices and Decision Making