There are two reasons why we ask for advice. The first reason is when we genuinely require some kind of guidance or assistance regarding a circumstance in our life. The second reason is when we are seeking approval from our advice-givers – that what we are doing is okay, that we are okay, that things are going to be okay.
If you are seeking genuine constructive advice (reason one), you should only seek out the expertise of a guru, a master; someone who has done it and succeeded.
When you find yourself asking the advice of people who are not experts in your field of query, then recognize that what you are looking for is probably not a solution – but approval and acceptance.
There is nothing wrong with our need to be accepted – and there will be just as many people who accept you as there will be people who reject you (can’t please em’ all, people), but just being accepted ain’t gonna get the work done.
If you are in an unhappy marriage and want to make it work – ask for advice from someone who has had a successful marriage – they can point you in the direction of where to go from here. You can even ask the advice of someone who once had a failed marriage, but then created a successful marriage. But what about the person who has not been in a successful marriage? What could this person tell you? Well they can certainly tell you what has not worked. They can share their experiences. They may even be able to listen to you and console you and give you reassurance that you are not alone – that these things happen. But will this help you learn from and fix you unhappy marriage? Maybe, but probably not.
Similarly, if you are thinking about starting your own business, ask advice from someone who has started their own business and is “successful” by your own terms at what they do. They will be able to tell you more about what they do, and how they do it, than someone who has never started their own business or who did but found that it flopped in the first year. They may be able to encourage you or discourage you – and if encouragement is what you are looking for – why not just talk to a friend who cares about you. Someone who may not know the ins and outs of your plan, but someone who believes in you and your big life.
This is not to say that we need to devalue people who are not “Experts” at what we are trying to achieve- for example a happy marriage or a successful business, but simply that they may not be the exact people we need to be looking for when seeking advice in that area. And of course always keep in mind that everyone you meet is better at you in something, and there will be something that they can teach you – all I’m saying is it is important to be selective about who you go to for what.
And what about giving advice?
If you have been asked to be advice giver, first of all, congratulations. Someone in your life is either seeking your genuine expertise, or really values your opinion – or many even both. Either way, you are in a position that you shouldn’t take lightly.
I wont bore you with the “DUH” stuff (like being completely objective, being a good listener etc.) but I will share with you an important aspect of advice-giving that I have only recently come to understand and employ.
Have you ever had a situation where a friend asks you for some advice about something, and you give some- and let’s not be bashful here – pretty kick ass advice, that even makes you think “Wow! That is some great advice. It’s totally what I would do in this situation – and it would really fix all my troubles. It feels so obvious now!”
And then for reasons unknown, your friend either has a blank expression, or agrees vehemently “Yes, yes, you’re totally right!” but then goes and does something totally different, and of course gets totally different results.
Woah, hold up there. What happened? What did you go and do with my A+ advice? What happened here?
Well what happened is that they just didn’t get it. I mean, yeah they “got it” (if they pretended to), but they didn’t really get it.
Something I am realizing as I get older is that people’s views of reality exists on a huge spectrum. Something that is totally unimaginable for myself, is a very real possibility and option for someone else. Something that I would take for granted and would seem like common sense for me, is not even in someone else’s scope of reality.
When you give advice to somebody it is vital to structure the advice based on how they see the world, and not how you see it.
You have to start at the starting line with them. You can’t be a few paces ahead, or behind them – or nothing will make sense.
It seems simple, but this is something I never really did until now.
If someone with money problems (accompanied by a distorted belief system about abundance) is asking you advice about becoming financially sound, you cannot approach this person with the assumption that they believe the world is an abundant place.
If you are trying to advise somebody to take a different route in their life – you have to see it from their perspective. Maybe this route seems obvious to you, but for someone else it might be a dark and scary place. It might even be off the map completely. See their map as they would see their map. Take small steps in the right direction together, as more and more of the map becomes uncovered, and finally the route you would have instantly suggested, seems the most obvious and reasonable solution to take. If you are skipping steps, somebody is going to be left in the dark.
I try to remind myself that everybody, including myself, is always doing the best that they can do, with what they know and understand about the world.
Instead of trying to make someone understand me and my reasons, I want to focus more on understanding other people and their reasons, and how they see the situation themselves. If I can understand them, it makes it infinitely easier for them to understand me, because suddenly – we are in it together.
For example, if your teenage daughter is in a relationship with a real dead-beat, kindly informing her that he is a loser and is going nowhere in his life and is a very unsuitable match for her – as convincing as it is for you, is probably not going to even nudge your daughter. She might even be more determined to prove you wrong. Why? Because if you step out of your own mind and into hers, you will see her as a woman who is separate from yourself. And you will see her as someone who is falling in love with somebody, and analyzing potential relationship hazards is probably the last thing on her mind. When you say these things to her, not only is she not interested, but she probably doesn’t even know what you are talking about. When will she know what you are talking about? When she feels supported by you, when she feels listened to by you, and when she feels safe enough to move forward in her life and allow reality and the truth to gradually unfold in front of her very eyes.
So what is the most important kind of advice? Relevant advice. Advice that is of the same language. If a person is pregnant, advising them that they should never have gotten pregnant is not good advice.
Discussing options is good advice.
So if you want to give good advice, remember to be objective, relevant and supportive.
If you fail to be even just one of these things – chances are, they are not going to listen to you.
And if you are the one asking for advice, remember to seek out the people who are experts, for the constructive instruction that you need. Do your research. Know what you are getting into.
And after this, the most crucial step is to always make your own decisions. Let the feelings expand in your stomach and go with it. Then throw away all your books and live your life the way you see fit. You are your wisest confidant, and no one could live your life the way you do, therefore no one is as qualified to instruct you on your choices as you are. Remember this and own this. Seek approval and blessings from yourself and your own conscience, and if it feels right, do it!
I recently asked for some advice from a very special friend who I believe is the perfect candidate for an advice-giver for what I was asking about. She gave me very practical and reasonable suggestions and resources. And then at the end, she said “You know what Malavika. You are a special girl. And you are a smart girl. You just have to live your life, and live through these experiences making the most of it as you go. And things are going to be great. And if you encounter obstacles and find challenges, always remember that everything about you can handle it.”
And remember, as Dr. Seuss said “”Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”