Whether we ask for it or not, we are often on the receiving end of advice. For example, when your mother-in-law tells you that you should have put your snow tires on two weeks ago, you might not have identified that as advice. Yet there it is, whether you wanted it or not.
We can choose what to do with unsolicited advice. In some cases, we might determine that it’s valuable, so we act on it. Other cases, we ignore it. Sometimes, when unhelpful advice is offered by someone we care about, we might nod pleasantly and file it away in the spot in our brains labeled, “I’ll never need this again.”
Perhaps the most unhelpful response to unwanted advice is when we choose anger. When we perceive that advice is an attempt to control, it can be easy to take umbrage and think, “How dare you! I don’t need your help!” That doesn’t do much for keeping relationships together, and if the advice was offered in a genuinely helpful spirit, it can give rise to confusion and hurt feelings.
There are also times when we seek advice. And there’s plenty to be found. Magazine articles, celebrities, politicians, news-makers—there’s no shortage of people who are happy to tell us what is best for us.
What do you look for when you are choosing someone to advise you?
Let’s say you are looking for advice on how to organize your space, your time, or your life. You would likely choose an advisor who seems to be organized themselves, not someone who forgets your appointment and then brings you to an office overflowing with a mountain of disorganized papers.
Likewise, if you are looking for advice on how to live in an environmentally-friendly way, would you choose to take advice from a person who has multiple planes, houses, and a flamboyant globe-trotting lifestyle? Or would you instead choose someone who lives a life of restraint, frugality and respect for the land, such as the farmer who creates value out of every tree, acre, cow, and scrap of waste?
What if you are looking for advice to help you create a satisfying life? If you are dissatisfied, despairing, and confused, who would you choose to advise you?
Would you choose advisors who are angry, bitter and resentful? Or would you rather learn from folks who maintain a reasonable cheerfulness and optimism, despite being aware that our society and the individuals in it are far from perfect?
I am sometimes struck by the levels of anger and bitterness displayed by some influencers, particularly when discussing current events. While the wish to drive change and make a positive difference is worthy, do you really want to take advice from anyone whose focus is one of casting blame on others for the misery in their lives?
How can you distinguish between advisors who offer helpful advice and poor advice?
My suggestion is that helpful advice helps you take more effective control of your life. It helps you create a satisfying, productive life where you can meet your own needs and contribute to others.
On the other hand, there is advice available that could lead you to believe that you don’t and will never have control over important parts of your life, and further, someone else is at fault for your condition. This mindset takes any opportunity for improvement right out of your hands, doesn’t it?
If the advice that you are getting leaves you feeling more dependent, more resentful, and more despondent, ask, “Is that what I want?” Evaluate for yourself. See what contributes to helping you feel happier and in more control of your life, and what leads you toward more despair and hopelessness.
How do you choose your advisors?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom