“Just focus on the task at hand”, I mindlessly advised an acquaintance and retreated back to the things that concerned my living.
The acquaintance went quiet and did not challenge my valueless advice. It took me a couple of minutes to understand what I had done. I had given advice when none was required.
Once I realised what I had done, I went back to the person and apologised for giving advice.
Why was I monitoring my advice-disseminating behaviour?
Because I had been at the receiving end and had received advice so many times when all I wanted was, to be listened to. It has been increasingly frustrating to not being able to talk my heart out without the other person interjecting with regular dosage of what I should or should not do.
So, I set out to understand this whole advice business.
I started an experiment. I texted, emailed and had face-to-face conversations with ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’ about trivial problems. In each instance, each one of them had taken over the role of fixing my problem. It was just fascinating to watch:
“I hate this”
“You should do this”, the person replied before even listening to the conversation in its entirety including its complex and intricate layers.
Once I established that others were quick in giving advice, I moved on to phase 2.
The next part was to monitor my own self. I hypothesised that I am an angel and I don’t do what everyone else does (how convenient and self-aggrandizingly naive). I averaged about 7-10 bits of advice a day which correlated with the number of conversations I was having. In summary, I was giving advice front back and centre. The results came to me as a surprise because had you told me that I was distributing advice so freely, I would not have believed it but I had data to prove my own failings and you cannot not believe the data.
What I learnt?
- I decided that I will not be giving any more advice unless explicitly asked for. All I want to do in my conversations is to listen with my soul open to what the person is saying. I mean what is even the point of conversations when you are not present?
- If I am asked for advice, I will take a moment and think about what I am going to say before blurting out an advice. I will ask myself questions such as, have I ever been in a similar situation, if yes, then, did the advice I am about to give work for me? If yes, sweet as! If no, to the first question, I will make that clear, if no, to the second question, I will refrain from giving that particular advice.
- It is important to just be there sometimes. Just listen sometimes. Listening and being present amounts to a lot more than trying to sort out a problem. If you genuinely care for someone, you do not have to fix their problems, you just have to show that you are going to be there no matter what and from my experience that works as an ointment on the wounds of life.
- I am giving advice right now, aren’t I?