I’m big on giving advice, especially the unsolicited kind. (In fact, I do it here, every Wednesday morning!) Lately, I don’t seem to need advice quite as often as I dish it out, but when I do, I generally first consult Google or YouTube. And once in a while, the information I receive is either contradictory or not what I was hoping to learn, and confusion ensues.
Am I preaching to the choir? Are you ever in that situation?
Take, for example, my friend Christie who is a self-described serial dater. When Covid caused us all to shelter in place, Christie had just started seeing a high school algebra teacher. Because she had impeccable wi-fi and he had to teach his classes virtually, they decided to live together. She called me one night to tell me all of the things about him that she found annoying, and that she had received contradictory advice from her parents and her older sister. She wanted me to break the tie. Instead, I gave her more advice. (She asked!)
The first thing I suggested was for her to take a look at her own values. What were the goals she was working towards? What was her instinct telling her?
The second thing I pointed out was that she might want to consider the sources. Regardless of who’s in her support system, each advice-giver is approaching the situation from a personal perspective. Maybe Christie’s parents were morally opposed to cohabitation before marriage. Maybe Christie’s sister had an ulterior motive in encouraging the relationship with the teacher, i.e., free tutoring.
As with all advice, we give it from the perspective of what the choice might be if we were making it for ourselves. Therefore, we should probably receive it similarly, and with the understanding that we have the right to pick and choose from those other perspectives. Figuring out what’s relevant and discarding the rest is another way of giving ourselves permission to, at the end of the day, make our own decisions.
Framing some follow-up questions is also a good idea. If you’re getting contradictory advice from your internist and your specialist, be prepared to ask why their opinions differ, and maybe ask what they would suggest if the patient was their mother or sister.
Another good strategy is to panic. Just kidding. I wanted to see if you were still reading.
Let me start again. Another good strategy is to pretend you’re the advice-giver and the advice-seeker is your dear friend or close cousin. What would you say if the situation was reversed?
At the end of the day, remind yourself that you’ve asked the advice of people you care about and respect, so understand that they probably feel the same way about you. Even if you think the suggestion is dumb or irrelevant, consider the underlying intentions. And remember, YOU ASKED. Try not to dismiss any advice offered to you, but instead say you’ll think about it.