Giving advice

One of the newsletters I subscribe to is from The Happiness Project‘s Gretchen Rubin. While some days I barely take notice of the short quotes she sends, on other days they resonate. Today’s offering:

“Most of us are experts at solving other people’s problems, but we generally solve them in terms of our own and the advice we give is seldom for other people but for ourselves.”
Nan Fairbrother, The House in the Country

I can’t help but think about how this can be true not only on an individual level, but also on a social one. Too often it seems the advice and solutions we hear from managers and lobbyists and policymakers seems to speak as much or more about their challenges as those of others. In part this may be because we just understand so little about the problems of others, either not appreciating their complexity or not having time to learn more. How can we build up a culture where advice given in our own image and with our own concerns foregrounded is minimized? How can we build up a culture where complex problems are acceptable and complex solutions are expected?