I like giving advice, because as this blog shows, I like the sound of my own voice. Let’s be honest who doesn’t? It’s a natural thing to try to rise above the general mumbling of the masses to assert our influence over others.
Due to this most advice is completely inane.
- “Look on the bright side”
- “Things will get better”
- “Don’t press the big red button”
As much as we like telling others what we think, we seem to be incapable of listening to any good advice provided by others.
Why is this, is it because what we are being told is normally so obvious that the fact that someone is pointing it out simply does not register in the brain? Telling me to “wrap up warm” suggests that I somehow lack the ability to detect temperature, and that my own understanding of my body’s thermo-tolerance is lacking compared to yours.
Some advice is so basic that it seems geared at protecting the stupid or clumsy from extinction. If you need to be told not to play with fire or run with sharp objects, should you really be passing on these destructive traits to another generation? This is why wildebeest run from lions, as the calves that suggest “perhaps if we opened a dialogue with them?” are quickly dispensed of leaving those behind that realise that the best advice is to run away from the big yellow thing with sharp teeth.
So why do we give advice? Is it an altruistic desire to see others survive or flourish?
It’s to make ourselves feel better.
Doing nothing is not an option, and doing something is even worse. So we utter tried and tested ways of relieving our own guilt about our own inaction, as though the act of giving advice is providing the person with a proxy version of ourselves. Telling someone to “hold in there” is a way of saying I would help you (if I could/wanted to) so do it yourself because I just told you to. If they don’t follow your suggestion then it’s not your fault is it? They didn’t do anything about it, but then again neither did you.
Advice is a guilt reliever, a way of brushing off a person. Nobody tells you that your advice is wacky, I mean why would they? It’s pretty ungrateful.
The best thing about giving advice is that you don’t need to be specific. It’s so easy to sound like a modern Confucius when you don’t have to provide detail. Take these examples:
- “Plenty more fish in the sea” – Errr…where?
- “Things will pick up” – When?
- “Cheer up” – how?
- “Don’t chew electric leads” – Why?
I can give amazing advice by just saying enough words in a sentence until I hit something that is profound. Put a monkey on half a typewriter and he will sound like Dr Spock. Either of them.
Advice books are a modern form of snake oil, diet books proclaiming “this way works” and “guaranteed results” when all it comes down to is good diet and exercise. There is no incentive to give good advice because if something becomes he way to do something you cannot sell further books or DVDs to those who buy into the methods. There is more money in treating a cold than curing a cold after all.
What is the best piece of advice I’ve ever given, it’s simple. Don’t listen to me or anyone else when they give you advice. Be independent and don’t need anyone else’s ‘great ideas’.
Unless the good advice is about not listening to people who give you advice. Then listen to them.