Advice. It’s the perfect thing for that troubled person in your life who’s making the wrong decisions. Whatever they’re doing and whoever they’re being, we can see the problem and we have the perfect solution. Right?
What is great advice in the first place?
We obviously think so since we’re handing out our grand plan of action left and right, but we actually be doing more harm than good at times. As good as our intentions may be, unsolicited advice is often unwelcome. Sometimes it’s more about our needs than the needs of others. Before we open our mouths to speak up to others, we have a few things we need to consider.
Having a dialogue is one thing, but handing out advice that you yourself should be practicing? That’s a touchy matter. We all have things to work on and we’re trying to handle them the way we see best, but commenting on someone else’s baggage when we’re carrying our own can make us appear as though we feel superior (and let’s be honest — when we’re handing out advice we’re almost always thinking we’ve got the magical solution to all their problems so we in fact are feeling superior).
No matter how much we may know something, we’re sure to forget our own wise advice in the thick of things. We’ve got to remember that we’re all hypocrites in one way or another, so we should be dropping all our lip-flapping so we can do more listening and contemplating.
It Can Enable Or Disable
People need to be lifted up, encouraged, and believed in. You may feel that you’re doing this by giving advice, but think about what the person must be hearing. You’re telling them what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.
That implies not only that they don’t have the ability to see this, but it also implies that they don’t have what it takes to accomplish it themselves. We give advice with the idea of showing support, but the best way for us to support someone is to aid them in resolving things on their own.
We all want to be successful in life, but many of us don’t know that we’re capable of it. We believe we have limits, and until we push ourselves beyond them we’ll never know what we’re truly capable of.
We’re Making Assumptions Based On Our Own Experience
We think we know what’s going on, but there’s so much we don’t understand. For starters, many of us fail to look below the surface by getting the details. We hear the basics and we immediately jump to making assumptions, generalizing, and giving advice.
Thoughts and insights that are all relative to our experiences. While our stories can appear similar in ways, there’s sure to be 100x more differences than similarities.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
As shared above, we like to think we know what’s going on and why but we almost never have a full grasp of a given situation. There are hundreds of people, events, and situations impacting hundreds of other people, events, and situations.
Because of that we can never know what’s going on inside someone’s head. And when it comes down to it, reality is really a matter of perspective that’s based on the subconscious beliefs we developed from our past experiences.
To advise someone on something when we’re missing hundreds, thousands, or even millions of bits of insightful information can be far more irritating than helpful.
Advice Isn’t Their Greatest Need
There’s no doubt that we can save ourselves time, effort, and pain by hearing the wisdom of another’s experience, but sometimes it just won’t cut it. Anyone going through a hard time is caught up in an equally hard state of mind and emotions.
We can offer all the advice in the world, but as long as they’re feeling miserable our words will likely fall on deaf ears.
Our choices are determined by our behavior, which are determined by our emotions and state of mind. Look at the “poor choices” of any given person and beneath their actions you’ll see someone that’s desperate to feel supported, accepted, and understood.
So as much as we want to throw out a magic fix, the best way to help someone is to get them feeling better so they can shake off their disabling doubts and negativity. Pulling that off doesn’t require money or lip-flapping — just open ears and mindful observation.
Hopefully we can all look back on our lives and see how life’s challenges were necessary thanks to the great lessons that came from them. This applies to others too.
While an outsider to a situation is sure to see problems that may be invisible to the person actually in the situation, our insights aren’t going to be a 24 hour cure.
Their thoughts and behaviors are leading them down a very specific path. Until they change them, they’re going to be stuck walking the same dark and bumpy road.
It’s painful to watch someone go through a misery they could change, but sometimes it’s just what has to happen. However hard their journey may be, they’re going to be stuck walking that same path until they see reason to change direction.
Breakdowns become breakthroughs, and that’s what sparks true life changes. The hardships they experience are what will get them to stop and question what we’re doing; and that can get them to stop and pause and consider finding a better path. Sure, someone else could come along and offer a ride in the form of “help,” but once the ride is over they’ll find themselves heading to the very same destination as before.
When it comes down to it, advice can be enormously discouraging and inhibiting. The only person who knows what they need to do in life is the very person living that life.
Instead of telling people what we think is right or wrong, we should be encouraging them to determine those things for themselves. By letting them be who they are, we can help them see that everything they need for success has been within them all along. That there is empowerment in its truest and most powerful form.