Let me tell you a secret. This blog feeds a need in me. I have a burning need to offer free advice. I have a compulsion to tell people what to do. That seems to work okay in a blog, but in real life, maybe not so much. And lately, I’ve been dealing a lot with the nature of advice from both points of view.
A lot of people seek my advice, and when they ask for it, I try to give it. And when they don’t ask for advice, I try (but often fail) to keep my advice to myself. But it’s so hard, right? When someone comes to you, and they are complaining, or frustrated, or crying. And how often do we think we see what that person needs to do to fix their situation? It seems so SIMPLE, right? And how often do the words, “All you have to do is…” come leaping to my lips?
Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I know what that person needs to do to make everything better. And sometimes I just DON’T. Often all I know about the situation is the little bit I’ve seen and the little bit that person has chosen to share with me. And sometimes the person I’m talking to is able to eloquently relate in great deal what is happening to them. And sometimes they are NOT. Sometimes they have furtively shown me the tip of a very big iceberg. And sometimes I think I should know just how HUGE that iceberg is before I start giving navigation directions about how to steer around that bad boy.
But I can tell you from the other end, that sometimes the last thing I want in the world is some more unsolicited helpful advice–especially from those closest to me. It’s great that they care. And sometimes, no make that often, they are absolutely right about what I need to do. And sometimes, no make that often, that is absolutely not what I needed to hear at that moment. I try (but often fail) to be grateful that they care enough to share their ideas about what they think I should do. I try (but often fail) to accept their helpful hints and mild criticism with grace. But so often I end up angry and hurt and frustrated.
I think this is because often when I complain, or express frustration what I really need is 1)assurance that everything will be all right and 2)encouragement that I already have the tools to figure out what I need to do. That doesn’t mean that I am able to joyfully and completely articulate my needs in that moment. Nope. In that moment, I am bitching about something that isn’t going right in my life and secretly hoping like hell that the person listening doesn’t feel the need to give me lots of advice.
So what’s a person to do? I guess when I’m listening, I should try to remember that I have two ears and one mouth. I need to wait and assess–is this person asking me for advice, or encouragement, or assurance, or for nothing at all but a little commiseration? And I guess when I’m ranting, I have to remember how deep and strong the urge is to tell people what to do and be glad that people care enough to want to help me. Or at least I need to learn to articulate what I need instead of being annoyed that the person I’ve just regaled with all my woes hasn’t guessed correctly which of the hundred responses is the right one. It can be downright sticky.
So my little Chicklettes, I frankly don’t know how to advise you on the issue of advice. All I can suggest is to keep your mind and heart open, and do the best you can. And when you fail (which will be often) learn what you can and move on.
The Fat Chick