Some Advice... on Advice

Dysfunctional Family Circus by Mike Monahan, c. 1996, Berkeley, CA

Here's my advice: Unless someone explicitly asks for your advice, don't offer advice. Maybe not even then.

When I tell someone about a problem, I am not asking for advice. I am asking to be heard and understood. I do not want or need someone else to solve my problems... unless I specifically ask for that. Even if I lay out a problem and ask, "What should I do?" How do you know what I should do? Are you a doctor? A psychiatrist? A God? Thee God? A professional in a field related to the problem? No? Then maybe turn it back to me and ask questions that will help me discover the answer myself.

Really, do you want to be on the hook when your advice is taken and the result is terrible? Do you want credit when the result is awesome? Do you want to be in the business of puppeting other people's lives? Are you really, "just trying to help"? Do you think it is helpful to aid someone in avoiding making their own decisions or taking responsibility for their own life?

If all else fails, try empathy. What do you want from others when you share a problem? Do you want to be heard, understood, reminded that you're not alone, and then figure out your own path? Or do you want others to steer your life for you while you grow increasingly disempowered and helpless?

No pressure. I'll wait right here. :)

Self-sufficiency builds upon itself and is less prone to blame, guilt, resentment, or other emotional gremlins.

Sometimes we need to ask for help, and we shouldn't feel embarrassed to do so. And, it feels great to be able to help others, which we should do if we can. But, offering advice is basically the opposite of listening. It is hearing then turning it into your own problem. It is taking, not giving.