When going through one or more changes, life transitions and such, it is common, even beneficial, to share our experiences with others. Support is one of the four key factors contributing to a smooth transition; however, it is only effective when the people with whom we seek support provide us with the kind of support we need.
Advice? Why not?
Advice, in my view, is precisely what we don’t need when we’re faced with choices about a change or transition. I define advice as a recommendation or suggestion offered in the form of a directive, such as “you should do this.” In my previous post, I wrote about ways in which we can become lopsided in our decision-making, especially when faced with lots of choices from multiple changes, and advice is one of the ways in which our decisions can become tainted.
Help! What should I do?
Let’s take the example of Flora, who is thinking about breaking up with her significant other, which would also require that she move out of the apartment they share together. Both situations on their own constitute pretty big changes, yet in addition to these, Flora and her S.O. work at the same company, which could make for an awkward situation if he has a hard time accepting a break-up.
Mother knows best...or does she?
Flora finds it overwhelming to think about the mass disruption that could be created by the choices she’s considering, and decides to ask her mother for advice. Her mother, thinking of a personal experience with a break-up that created a lot of chaos in her own life, wants to protect her daughter from a similar fate, so advises Flora to try to patch things up in the relationship, because that would be the best way to create the least disruption.
To Flora, it is hard to disregard her mother’s advice, yet what her mother suggests feels unsettling to her. It wasn’t the response she was hoping to hear, and Flora now feels as though she has an additional burden by having to choose whether or not to follow this advice, and run the risk of disappointing either her mother, or herself.
A set-up to fail.
Flora sought advice from someone she trusts and who cares about her, but by its very nature advice is set-up to fail. While usually well-intended, advice is based on the perceptions and beliefs of the giver about our situation. It doesn’t offer us the opportunity to decide for ourselves what the best course of action might be, because the advisor takes care of that for us. In a sense, advice is a way of telling us what to do. We then must decide whether or not to follow it, which not only creates yet another choice, but also runs the risk of damaging the relationship with the person who offered it if we choose not to follow it.
When we’re struggling with decisions and choices about our future, it is not the time to ask for advice from others, because these are our choices to make.
In fact, I suggest avoiding the topic of such choices when talking to people who readily offer unsolicited advice, and/or who have a history of letting their own desires influence the advice they offer. Such advice will only convolute things, resulting in confusion, frustration and a higher likelihood of doing what others believe is the best decision, rather than what we determine is best for us.
In addition, it deters from our own personal power of choice, by allowing someone else to make the choice for us. This might be the easiest way out of indecision, but it could ultimately result in resentment and blame.
If not advice then what? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to find out.
What do you think?
Do you find value in advice? Do you have a different definition? Are there times when advice can be a good thing? When have you followed advice and were glad or sorry that you did?
Share your perspectives and let’s get the conversation started!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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