On Advice

The words of the tongue should have three gatekeepers:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
– Arabian proverb

ImageWith so many communication tools that didn’t exist one hundred years ago, our social conducts have multiplied almost infinitely. It only takes a few movements of your fingers to connect with another person and exchange opinions.
Having opinions and being able to express them are essential to our well being. A large majority of us have really absorbed that message from very early in our lives: freedom of speech is paramount. It’s thrilling and fulfilling to be able to speak our minds, whether it’s in person or online. In many situations, speaking our minds is what makes the difference between a positive life or a negative existence.
Most of us may agree that there are certain guidelines to what you can or can’t post online and that there are situations in which it is ok to express anger on a public forum (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as long as certain parameters are maintained. However, when we feel a certain degree of familiarity with someone – or even with an institution or business -, we may feel impelled to offer our opinion as advice although nobody requested our thoughts on any specific matter. Sometimes we may call it ‘advice’ but if we pay closer attention we might be shocked to discover that beneath the advice, there is judgment.
None of us are capable of judging another person. There are so many variables that are unknown to us that it’s impossible to reach an objective opinion, let alone make a judgment about other person’s decisions or actions. Giving advice is a delicate matter even when someone requests it, because it implies that – if you’re the one giving the advice – you have more experience or are on the ‘higher moral ground’, which is why the other person is asking for your advice on a specific topic or situation. You have to think about the impact of your words and how what you say might transform other people’s lives, etc. If it’s so tricky when you are asked for advice, imagine how it goes when you offer unsolicited advice: you create an uncomfortable scenario, because your advice comes off, invariably, as judgment.
An interesting and fruitful exercise you can do today: grab pen and paper and think about how many times a day/a week/a month you have offered advice. How many of those times have you actually been asked to offer it? We get so caught up in our daily routines that sometimes we become involved in certain behavioral patterns that hurt us and others, without even noticing. It is never too late to make changes and, trust me, you will notice the positive effects in your life right away!
Looking forward to your replies and comments at docbeverly@aol.com.

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