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The Thing About Advice

I love to give advice. When I listen to someone else describe their problems, the solutions seem so easy. Of course you should go back to school, take care of yourself, or break up with that loser!! This is easy!!

It was surprising to me, then, that when I started attending a support group, there was an explicit rule against giving advice. The idea is that we listen to each other non-judgmentally, accepting what other people say “because it is true for them.” So while my gut reaction to someone’s problem may be, “duh, just do X,” I’m learning to sit and simply listen without offering advice.

Since joining this group, I’ve noticed how intrusive advice can be in the rest of life. Advice can often be a way of invalidating someone else’s experience. It often has more to do with the advice giver than the recipient. It’s as if we try to repair our own past by working on someone else’s future.

Which is not to say that I never give advice anymore. I’m still nosy and I often find myself offering blunt (OK, rude) advice, because focusing on someone else’s problems feels easier than focusing on my own. But I’m learning to keep the focus on myself in the here and now and take my own advice.

Do you have any rules about giving advice? What’s the rudest advice you’ve ever received?

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