Why others sometimes see the answers to your problems more clearly than you

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ tells the story of a rich ruler who commissioned a new suit of clothes from a pair of swindling tailors who sold him garments they claimed would appear invisible to those who were ‘unfit for their positions, stupid or incompetent’.


When the clothes were ‘delivered’, everyone from the Emperor down sycophantically pretended they could see them, for fear of being labelled unfit, stupid or incompetent, leading to the rich man parading around town without a stitch on.

Only one citizen, a young boy, was sufficiently brave to point out what everyone else thought, but was too frightened to say.

In the words of Danny Kaye’s re-telling of the story in a song written by Frank Loesser, he exclaimed, ‘Look at the King, Look at the King!…

The King is in the altogether…’

Most of us aren’t surrounded by people frightened to have views of their own, of course, and they’re generally only too happy to express them.

They may even have opinions about your own particular circumstances.

And those circumstances could from time-to-time include you feeling down in the dumps.

This is when you’re likely to hear the old phrase ‘if I was you’ from them.

There’s a tendency to dismiss this kind of ‘help’, because the person issuing it is of course not you.

How can they know how you feel?

What gives them the right to issue advice?

To a certain extent, you’d be right to think this: but only to a certain extent, because now and then outsiders can help you gain a useful new perspective on your own situation.

So talk to people with different views.

You don’t need to accept everything they say, but doesn’t it make sense to listen at least, just as the Emperor eventually did?

Sometimes hearing the naked truth can be good for you.

8 thoughts on “Why others sometimes see the answers to your problems more clearly than you

  1. i love that song! And you’re right. Did this come on the back of you asking us for feedback, Jon?! Anyway, it’s great, thanks

  2. Midwife said to me on the first visit after our daughter was born:
    ‘You’ll get so much advice from everyone and anyone…listen, take it in, then discard what isn’t appropriate for you and your baby.’
    One little nugget of information you don’t want to hear now, might be what you need tomorrow.

  3. I’m in the business of offering advice (being a support worker/Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator), but even I say “you don’t have to take this advice but….” I’m offering a perspective that often people who are consumed by the situation, cannot see.

    I’m not saying that I’m always right because I’m certainly not, but “pause for thought’ is all I hope the person will at least take on board. A moment of the individuals time to consider all ‘angles’.
    My suggestion may not be right but it is an option and sometimes that might be all the person needs.

  4. I agree with this Jon. I would not want to control what others might say to me. By enforcing control over well meaning peoples’ responses, I could easily miss out on nuggets and gems of wisdom.

  5. As the old saying goes, you can’t see the woods for the trees. It’s sometimes difficult to stand back and see a solution, because you become so involved with the details of the problem. That’s why another saying makes sense and is a great help : A problem shared, is a problem halved.

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