Dimensions of advice

I have always had a really weird relationship with advice. Advice defined as telling other people what/how/why to do something. I say I have always had – like I was born having a relationship with advice – but what I really mean is that for as long as I can remember, I have what I would describe as a weird dynamic with “people telling me what to do.”

I am not sure this is particularly unique. It is not clear to me that most people have a relationship where they absolutely love being told what to do. Mine feels distinct in that I am extremely critical and cynical of most flavors of advice. This both impacts what I hear (in other words how I perceive what people tell me) and also what I say (what I tell the world!).

It goes beyond this, though. I, for some odd reason, judge people heavily for giving me _bad_ advice. It’s not even about the content of the advice actually. The effectiveness of it. No. It’s about the _how_ they give the advice.

Do they sufficiently disclaim it? Add caveats? Note that it is not an absolute statement? Note that it’s just an opinion?

Why are they giving me this advice? Is it just to feel important? That’s the story often in my head. I feel like people are just talking to talk. To hear themselves talk. There are whole industries of this. Of people masquerading as experts when they are really salespeople. Bad salespeople. I really can’t believe it works. These bullshit machines. I doubt they even do work to be honest.

I am looking for those things. They speak to a flavor of awareness that feels important to me.

I wonder why. My wondering leads me to my childhood. I feel like very often I was given answers – by teachers and family members – that did not feel satisfactory or in fact turned out to be _wrong_ (or ineffective basically). And so I was conditioned to be skeptical of these absolute simplified frameworks for life that were so commonly told to us. And through experience, through trying things on my own and pushing the boundaries of conventionally simplified mantras, learned that there are other ways of doing things (potentially even better ways of doing things!). This search for the other way of doing things may have been a coping mechanism of my own, wanting to stand out or get attention or find shortcuts to things. Regardless, it led me to holding a skepticism of sorts. And having a ~relationship with authority figures that does not automagically grant them unlimited credibility. In fact, often the opposite. I see authority figures, or supposed authority figures, and I tend to hold them in a light that is critical – like they have something to prove. An awareness to improve.

For some reason, I look a lot for this awareness. For this acknowledgement that advice, prescriptive advice, _may_ be ineffective. For the notion that right and wrong are not necessarily laws of the world and are opinions. Some people do not think about that really at all. They think in one dimension. They do not see that as a part of life. They do not see that aspect of things. And because of that, they, too, seem to be grasping for truisms. For things that are just true. Like universally true. They hear things — perhaps statements by celebrities or influencers or what not — and they take them with no doubt. They take them as fact.

I have been told in the past I may have this thing called obsessive compulsive personality disorder. It’s not OCD. It is OCPD. And part of “having OCPD” is a bias towards rigidity and upholding your values. And seeing the world through this lens of “does said thing in front of me violate my values or does it uphold them?” We can debate the effectiveness of labeling things like this. And how helpful or harmful it is for me to have a name like this – to be honest I do not think about it or many of the other labels that have been passed onto me much at all. But besides the point, perhaps a value that I care a lot about is someone who cares about awareness. Perhaps because I care a lot about it, I also expect it from others (we know this is not justification; the golden rule is not actually a rule that everyone follows).

And so, when I hear someone giving me advice — I tend to immediately roll my eyes. Like that’s my default position. This person is dumb is the thought in my head. Literally could be talking to a Nobel prize winner and my head will go there. How dumb of me! Just because they are not making these points that life is nuanced and what not, why should I throw out all of their ideas?

This is something I have long wrestled with. Professors I barely trust as a result. People I hired I barely trusted as a result.

Unless they delivered that nuance. Forget delivering, all they really had to do was care about it. To show that language mattered. To show that language resembled thought and that moving to the appropriate abstraction and appropriate level of detail in communicating was a thing that was important to coordination.

Even writing this out it all feels a bit trivial. And perhaps it is. But perhaps it isn’t. It’s not because I know in my day to day work that this stuff really matters to me. There are people I interface with that seem to have no clarity of thought. No awareness of this clarity. And beyond that, don’t seem to care about it. They don’t see that dimension. Really at all. Like even if you type it out for them. Something doesn’t register in their brain there. Like they are blocking it out or were conditioned to not move in this way. Fine. I am not going to be able to hypnotize them all or feed them all the water or whatever – they have other superpowers.

But in ways I feel a bit like Superman when he unlocks that ability to see through walls. I am seeing in this dimension. This sensitivity. This diversity is blinding though. It’s like another layer of life.

And how I often feel is that people don’t see it. They just don’t get it. It’s not their faults. I don’t think. Like I don’t think they are choosing this. But they just don’t get it! You can see in the craziness of my thoughts here that I have thought about this before many many times over and over questioning this dimension.

How?

How do people not get this way? Are they taming the beast inside of them or is the beast not there?

Are they just like so much more in tune with themselves than me? Can they just hold it in? Are they just at peace? How is this happening?

Those are thoughts in my head. I am not freaking out like that all of the time. Nor am I really freaking out right now. But I wanted to show you just how powerful this ray gun of sorts or whatever you want to think of it as — these x ray binoculars that are embedded inside me, can actually be.

And when applied to this idea of people giving me advice, as I have been describing, I tend to absolutely shred things to pieces. Now there are times where my blinders come on and there are things I miss. Like perhaps there is someone I actually do admire and I tend to just look past some details. But this is rare. Very rare. Like very often do I get caught on the details, the details around awareness, that perhaps do not really matter broadly, but do matter to me in the context that I assimilate awareness with intelligence or respect or trust or whatever.

And so, in the notion of giving advice, generally speaking I think a formula that may work a lot better is: “listening in silence, asking a few questions, and then thoughtfully following up only if asked.”

It’s a weird approach. A patient approach. A thing you’d see an older wiser person do. An older wiser version of you that is. Someone who can see beyond the current state of conversation.

And see that giving advice is a fool’s journey. You want to be helpful. But you also know that you have limitations towards what you understand. There are dualities everywhere.


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