If you asked any of my friends they would tell you a couple things about me. One is that I have been known to be the guy who offers unsolicited advice. Although I am much better at it now, I used to suck at keeping my mouth shut. The second is that you shouldn’t ask for my advice/opinion unless you’re absolutely ready to hear the thing that you’re already aware of deep down inside but dread to have confirmed. This has resulted in friends telling me they don’t always need me to tell them what to do every time they share something with me; sometimes they’re just not quite ready to hear the truth, and it hurts even though they know I mean well. I took it to heart. And I always ask first if they care to hear what I think (almost always)…
I now spend a lot more time thinking about how I give advice
As you know, we are all individuals and handle life’s challenges in different ways. Some of us, who developed healthy coping skills, do best on our own. We break things down, analyze them and then find rational solutions. Some of us need to run things by others, not necessarily because we don’t know what to do, but because we just need a sounding board. And some of us don’t trust ourselves at all, so in crucial situations we completely depend on advice from an outside source.
We are all better at giving advice than following our own, and we all have very strong opinions about the advice we give.
Observing my friends and co-workers, when in a situation that required advice giving, I noticed one particular thing that set me on a never-ending quest to be a better advice-giver, or BAG.
See the funny thing about when people give you advice is, they are not telling you what you should do. They are telling you what they would do in your situation. Meaning the advice that you get 90% of the time doesn’t consider you, your past experiences, your motives and triggers, your fears or joys. What the advisor does is consider is all their shit, their triggers, and their past experiences, and then form advice, or rather an action plan, based on what their personal experiences were. Not yours. Selfish little bastards! But to be perfectly honest, I think most people are completely unaware that their advice is really just them putting themselves in your shoes, in every meaning of every word. That is why it’s soooo highly subjective.
And that is why, when bombarded with advice from every angle, we often either feel lost, confused or decide to just fuck it and do nothing at all. Because it doesn’t feel right. Because it’s not what we would do.
One could argue that it’s good to get different perspectives. I agree. Opinions, yes. But advice, no. Very few people have mastered giving objective advice. Very few people are aware enough to take a step back, consider the person that’s standing in front of them and all that they are, and based on that, offer advice. What’s even more interesting, and what keeps this happening is that many of us are still very unaware that’s what’s actually happening, when it occurs.
But I challenge you to try it. Next time someone tries to give you advice, especially someone you know, pay attention. Ask yourself, “is this something they really think I would do? Or is it something clearly they would do in my situation?” I promise you the latter will turn out to be the truth. And if you’re on the opposite end, it’s better to just sit it out and listen. Or, if you’re like me, and have a strong opinion about something, please try consider the person you’re talking to for more than just a second, and before you speak, learn from my mistakes and ask first.