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how to stop giving unsolicited advice :
“Because no one has ever lived or will ever live this life I am attempting to live, with my gifts and challenges and past and people. Every life is an unprecedented experiment. This life is mine alone. So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they've never been. There is no map. We are all pioneers” - Glennon Doyle
Not long ago, a childhood friend shared with me her roommate conflict situation. She was having an initial disagreement that slowly ballooned into an ordeal. As much as I tried to be an empathetic friend, I can be impatient and dismissive when I am occupied with my own qualms. I processed the stories she told and found a natural reaction to give advice. She ended up dismissing my suggestion and proceeded to tell the same story to her other friends.
This friend and I would go in circle each time she vent to me. The occasion usually ends up with me giving her a half-baked solution. If I were to be in her position, I wouldn’t want advice either. Somehow, I like to do the opposite of what I preach because it is much easier. I realize I can give advice for troubled friends because I am not in the heat of the moment. I am in a good position while they are in the middle of it.
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High horse advice giving is something I find myself to be at both ends: giving and receiving. Spoiler alert: none is recommended. I read a tweet last year that encouraged people to fall in romantic love, for its bliss is worthwhile of risks or suffering this person argued. I disagree with this advice. If we delve deep into the world of love, we know that romantic love is not a necessary form of love. Some need time to heal before launching into the world with the risks of being hurt again. Some need emotional growth. Some need to develop responsibility before they bring another person onto their life. If you are in a secure relationship, it is intuitive to encourage people to do the same.
I had a close friend who went into corporate half a year before me. There was a period where she was depressed, frustrated and resigned with her career. She didn’t get to learn as much as she had expected and felt stuck in the day-to-day grind. Initially, I was very gung ho about helping her navigate the situation: finding a new job, networking internally, talking it out with her manager, etc. That was until I hit a wall with my own career and learned that change is not straightforward. Sometimes people are stuck and little could be done by them to sway the boat. Realizing many problems can’t be solved with one’s effort but also the entire social context, family background and complex power play helps me take a step back on what I try to do for loved ones.
Glennon Doyle in Untamed wrote a lot about ceasing to seek advice from others, particularly with women. Instead, one can find the answer within themselves when they become still and explore what is deep under their surface level thinking.
When people come to me with their problems, I don’t think they are trying to find a solution. They need encouragement, yes. They need empathy, yes. They need support, perhaps. But I don’t think they need someone to tell them what to do. We each are living our own lives and even when we think we know what is best for someone, often times we don’t. Let people make their decision and be by their side if need be.
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