Thursday, June 13, 2013


I have spent the last few weeks thinking about freely given, unsolicited advice.  It annoys me.

Advice: an opinion about what could or should be done about a situation or a problem.

Synonyms: guidance, help, input, instruction, judgment, lesson, persuasion, recommendation, suggestion, two cents' worth, warning, view, word to the wise.

Several weeks ago, around the end of school, I read a blog post by a well-known blogger that sent me into hysterical giggling. I laughed and laughed; then I laughed some more as I read follow-up comments from others who had as many ridiculous experiences as the original writer.  Then I quit laughing as I read comments from those whose only intent was to ensure the entire world knew how the author had misused words, obviously didn't know how to raise children correctly and had disappointed the universe.  They told her over and over how to change her life so she could meet their standards.

I finally had to quit reading because I no longer read the hilarious comments with joy, but trepidation because I knew that soon there would be another 'oh-so-helpful' person giving advice ... quite freely.

The other day, I caught myself doing something a bit like that.

A friend had fallen into a deep, blue funk and had the courage to tell me about it, knowing that I would encourage her. But, I couldn't stop after I had written those words; I had to keep going. I wrote it all out, sent the email and then cringed. She hadn't asked me to give her advice on how to fix the situation, but I was more than willing to offer it; I spewed hundreds of words all over the page.

I immediately sent an apology and her reply was gracious - telling me that she knew my advice was not only freely given, but also came with no strings. She's right, I have no problem with a person choosing not to use what I say. And at that point, I relaxed.

What is our deal?

Is it because we need others to know we're the smartest person in the room?  Oh, I'm certain in many cases, that's a great part of it.

Maybe it's because we've been down a certain path ourselves and want to make sure that no one else has to face the same issues we did.  But, that's assuming they're on the exact same path we've been on and will make the same choices we made along the way.  Heaven forbid they walk that path and make better choices all on their own.

Some of it has to do with the fact that we like to homogenize everything to our own limited viewpoint and standards.

In many cases, it's just because we're opinionated and can't imagine that anyone with a different opinion could be correct.

If you look at the title of this blog, I've been called "The Oracle," because I give advice quite freely.  Sometimes I really do think I'm the smartest person in the room; sometimes I know what I've been through and simply don't want to watch someone else deal with it; sometimes I'm seriously opinionated.

But, I need to watch my words.

- Is it the right time to say (or write) something?
- Will they receive it in the spirit with which I offer it?
- Have they really even asked for my advice?
- Do we have a relationship in which I have permission to offer advice?
- Am I simply sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong?
- Will my words affect this person positively or am I being judgmental?
- If I do give advice, am I fine with it being ignored?
- Is my opinion simply that and nothing more?

There's advice and then there's telling people what to do.  It's not an easy line to walk.

And for something a little more fuzzy - here's a picture of TB:


Punkerdoos said...

I think Diane.... advice is your love language. That is how I view it anyway...whenever you give it it just feels like you just want to do whatever you can to help the person you are talking to. But I can freely say that because you have created a foundation in this friendship of pure unconditional love. My first thought with you is you want the best for me... and I can't even ever think of any advice you give ever coming from judgement.

Judgement is what makes advice have a bit of a sting to the edge of it. It carries an edge of a threat... and a very pronounced "should"... that kind of advice I believe comes from a persons own fears. They cling to what they really believe and then need you or me to comply because they have their own fears which make them need to control the situation some how... I know this because this is a thread in the very essence of me (just ask my poor son hehehe).

Annnyway... there is a reason you are called the Oracle in my opinion, and it is because often your advice isn't just advice, it is wisdom.

Love you!

Diane Muir said...

Your 'poor' son deserves it all! Hahaha. I love you ... and yes, judgment and fear is what transforms advice into telling someone what to do.

Grrr ... it does just annoy me!

Melodie Fox said...

I am reminded of that wonderful Sufi saying the Doris shared. "Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate ask yourself 'Is it true?' At the second ask 'Is it necessary?' At the third gate ask 'Is it kind?'"

Diane Muir said...

Exactly, Melodie!