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Words of Wisdom

When We Ask For Advice, What Are We Really Asking For?

Erica Jong, author of the landmark 1973 novel Fear of Flying, describes advice as "what we ask for when we already know the answer, but wish we didn't."

Erica Jong (b. 1942) is an American author best known for her landmark 1973 novel Fear of Flying. The controversy around Fear of Flying’s portrayal of female sexual desires was a contributing factor to the emergence of second-wave feminism. Her other novels include Shylock’s Daughter, Inventing Memory, and How to Save Your Own Life, from which the accompanying quotation is derived. 

What do we mean when we say we’re looking for advice? On the surface, guidance. Perhaps affirmation or to be told straight by someone who knows better. According to Jong, advice is merely confirmation of knowledge already known:

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer, but wish we didn’t.”

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