Everyone spends time on the receiving end of advice and criticism. Whether it be from parents, friends, coworkers, teachers, professors, authors, or maybe just the media, there is no shortage of advice on the right way to live our lives.
Sometimes advice comes gently packaged in nice wrapping paper, other times it can be thrown in our faces fresh out of the oven. Sometimes it can be accurate advice from an informed source, other times it can be ignorant dribble with no actual value. Sometimes it’s from people we admire and look up to, other times it’s from people who we don’t particularly like. One thing is for certain, though: it is much easier to be on the receiving end of advice when we think critically about it’s overall quality.
Advice that comes politely from someone we admire, who is particularly well informed about the topic, is generally worthy of our consideration. For example: Lance Armstrong giving tips on riding a bicycle. However, if he did it in a belittling, insulting way, all of a sudden it might not be as welcomed. Or, on the other hand, if someone who has never ridden a bike before gives us advice, it wouldn’t make much sense to listen to them. Lastly, if our arch nemesis tries to give us a few pointers, we might turn off our ears before they even start, which could indeed be a good idea.
But I think the most important things to consider when receiving advice are the other person’s intentions, credibility, and your level of esteem for them.
Intentions: Advice is best when it comes from people who have our best interests in mind – not theirs. Are they telling you not to get a job because they want to have a higher status than you? Do they want you to succeed, but just not as much as them? Are their intentions selfish? For example, do they want you to keep smoking because if you quit they’ll be the only one left? Are they advising you because they genuinely want to help…or are they doing it to show off how smart they are? All these things must be considered before we can really know how sincere someone’s help is. Fortunately, this can be pretty easy to discern in a few seconds, especially if we know the person.
Credibility: Can the advice-giver back it up? Have they been “down that road before” or at least studied the subject at hand? If our ultimate goal is success (in whatever area we’d like to imagine), we need to eliminate things slowing us down. One thing that slows a lot of people down is ill-directed advice. People saying “do this, do that, trust me, it’ll work” may not always be as certain as they sound. Examine their accolades, expertise, and experience before deciding to jump at their advice.
Level of esteem: This is probably the most important one for teens and young adults. Why? Peer pressure. And sometimes, peer pressure from people we don’t even like. It’s always upsetting to hear a story about how someone did something they didn’t want to do, in order to please someone they didn’t even like. Personally, a lot of people (especially in the young adult demographic) don’t approve of how I live my life. I don’t drink, smoke, or party, and I read and write for fun. I love school and learning. I believe in relationships and don’t support “hooks up”. Do I receive a ton of flak for this? You bet. Do I care? No. Why? Because the people who I actually look up to approve of my lifestyle. And so what if some people don’t? I don’t need to impress people whose opinions don’t matter to me. I don’t need to take their advice. I look up to people who tell me to do the opposite of what they tell me. Guess whose advice I’m going to take? At the end of the day, I have my own approval (most important), the approval of people I admire (pretty important) and no approval from people who just have a different set of values from me (least important). Final result: I rest easy. So my advice here is to really look at the person giving you advice and ask yourself “Is it worth it to impress this person? Do I really want their approval?”
To conclude, there are many advice-givers out there: friends, family members, professors, teachers, coaches, and so on. Often, advice is unavoidable. Sometimes, it’s unsolicited. But a wise man heeds advice, so heed it! Pay attention to it, let them say what’s on their mind, but never just take it at that. Not before assuring yourself that they have good intentions, a solid credibility, and are worthy of your esteem. That is not to say a person you despise can’t give great advice, but always keep in mind whose opinions really matter to you.
“To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.” ~Wilson Mizner
Photo by marczini