Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Word of Advice...

Why is it that people often ask for advice, suggestions, recommendations or council and then completely disregard what they get?

Sometimes it's a simple thing, like asking of a waiter or barista what to order. (I use this in the same fashion I do flipping a coin...I ask, then pay attention to whether I like their answer or not, then I choose if I want to follow or ignore it.) In other cases the matters involved may be more substantial, such as when someone turns to a therapist or spiritual leader for input on how to face a difficult problem.

I talked with a pal recently who has some big decisions to make. I asked if she had prayed about it. She said "No, because unless I am ready to heed the answer I get, there is no point asking the question, and I'm not sure I am totally ready for an answer I might not like."

There's more to that statement than meets the eye.

Sometimes I think I am better served by listening to my own inner voice and fully owning responsibility for my choices from the get go, and yet – there ARE times when the council of a trusted friend or a complete stranger can be helpful (like the time a lady in a department store dressing room told me “honey, trust me when I tell you this, you DON’T want to wear that in public. Not in a million years.”

What is the best advice you were ever given? Did you take it? What advice do you WISH you had listened to?

When is it appropriate to give someone else advice? What dangers or pitfalls are inherent in doing so?

I’ve counseled a number of college students about both personal and academic goals… everything from helping them sort out what classes to take to what profession they hope to pursue to whether to stay in a difficult relationship or run for the hills. I am always quite cautious about projecting my opinions, biases and perceptions into someone else’s life.

I recall talking with a woman at my church one day and while we were engrossed in conversation, her five year old daughter came up to tap the woman on the arm and ask: “Mommy, is this any of my business??” Ya know, a lot of us could benefit by asking ourselves that question more often.

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