What is it about receiving advice?

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Up to now, I was uncomfortable with people giving me advice!  I still have that little toddler living within me, I want to do it myself! attitude.  I stopped listening when I heard someone tell me what I should do.  Up to now, I have not liked people assessing me.  It has made me feel uncomfortable and I closed my ears to remarks from these people as quickly as I could to protect myself.

Of course, I am not particularly aware that I am judging others or, as I like to say assess,ing, situations and people around me.  I was taught from a young age to be discerning: to judge whether it is safe or when is it foolish to proceed. Opinions on how I view better ways of doing things, roll off my tongue.  This ability to judge can be to my advantage.  It can also become a roadblock to any happy, working relationship.

Families talk about other family members all the time.  They assess each other’s well-being, or lack of it. They might not label these conversations as judgmental, but judgments are made.  Many offer advice stemming from their judgment.  They do this out of love, of course.  Unfortunately, these good intentions can lead to hurt feelings, misunderstanding, and moments of asking forgiveness. When people give you advice don’t you notice that sometimes you can become defensive and hurt, without even realizing it?  Do you ever feel like they have underestimated your abilities?  Or, do you feel the friend you thought you had does not even know you?  Advice-giving is a tricky thing.

Perhaps we cannot stop people from giving us advice, as they offer judgement to the soundness or insanity of our actions. Yet if we are willing to be less defensive when advice comes our way, we can benefit in ways we could never benefit alone.  Perhaps deep down we know this.

Those who judge us, do so in light of their own perceptions. This is especially true when they are specific to you.  The advice-givers are unique, and that means different from who you are. It is helpful to remember that they cannot see your reality from your eye level.  And here lies the potential for conflict and misunderstanding.  When your family or friends share their point of view, you may feel that you are asked to accept the advice in its totality regardless of whether you agree.  You may interpret these remarks to be a kind of intervention, an ultimatum. This is where the defense conflict begins.

A well-meaning friend or family member makes a comment and you respond by defending yourself. The advisor then becomes frustrated that their comments are taken in such a negative light. The conversation heightens as you quickly reject the intended gift. You see their frustration and escalate their advice to a level of an insult.  As each continue to exchange words, it becomes apparent that the subject needs to be changed. The advise-giver is distressed as well as the recipient  So what can you do to accept insights without conflict?  Oh, oh, here is my advice:

  1. Can you accept that others share from their present personal situation?  A person usually reacts to your apparent cry for help,  by watching your body, your body language, and so much more!  To complicate matters, the one who is sharing advice may be speaking after having had a stressful day themselves, and may be surprised by your sudden cry out for help.  The advisor may be in the supportive let’s fix it mode and is giving the best shot at fixing your present problem.  And here lies additional challenges.
    1. If you take the advice in its totality and follow it without question, you are disconnecting from the one who knows the most about how to make the fix, and that is yourself!  Immediately, you will feel the emotions of the disconnect. And it doesn’t feel good.
      1. Disconnecting from self shows itself in uneasy feelings, like despair, weakness, anger, fear, guilt, impatience, etc.
    2. Acting out of negative feelings, usually brings you to your imagined defensive knees of separation, and the conversation goes to areas of conflict that were never intended.
    3. If you can take a step back and pause when someone offers advice, you will realize
      1. You complained of something in your life and sounded like you could use some help.  You asked for help.
      2. There may or may not be gold in the advice that is given.  That is up to you to discern.
      3. Whether advice was delivered loudly or softly, awkwardly or with finesse, there may be value hidden within.  Statements may sound like:
        • You shouldn’t be thinking about spending money on big projects now!, or
        • Here’s something I learned about financially planning for future surprises.  If you like, I can share some articles with you.
      4. These comments are still from the advisor’s point of view.  They are given to you from their hearts but it is always from their perspective.
  2. Accept the assessment at face value.  Thank you, I will consider your comments carefully.
    1. Remember that when someone gives suggestions about how to run your life situations, your ego translates what is said.  You may be fighting the memories of years with parent’s rules and over-protectiveness.  Your friend’s advice may be complicated by you with feelings of parental defensiveness.  When this occurs you cannot hear the attempt to share goodwill now in the present moment.  You may be triggered to interrupt and fight back.
    2. When you understand you are a complex human being with a history, you will  stop, pause, breathe and appreciate the opportunity of the present moment before reacting.
    3. A remark that can provide a good atmosphere of interchange could be:  I love that you care enough to say this.  You are a good friend. 
    4. If you find yourself arguing, explaining why you don’t need to do whatever is advised, you are in a parent/child-relationship moment.  This realization may be embarrassing to you. It is what it is.  Step back and reconnect with the beautiful positive person you are.  Change your attitude to allow the your way of relating to an adult-to-adult conversation.
    5. You’ve heard it before, don’t take it so personally.  Try to sort through advice like you would sort through a smorgasbord of goodies.  Some are not to your liking; some are.  It is for your pleasure to take whatever is helpful and let go of what is not, with gratitude, with whimsy and delight.

There are times when you may want to hide from others.  It is uncomfortable to defend against what we perceive as attacks of judgement.  We can easily become fearful of assessments that judge our appearance, our actions, our achievements or lack of achievements.

If you continually hide, you may miss out on a robust view of life.  Opinions from loved ones can be an opportunity to see beyond your view.   Remember, you don’t have to take advice in its totality or at all.  But listening through you heart can be an enlightening experience. What do you think?  Is it better to hide out away from advice-givers or is it more helpful to listen carefully and see what parts fit and what parts of the advise can be dismissed.

Accept the love that is intended for you when people share their opinions.  You may be able to appreciate each time family or friends try to help.  Enjoy open communication and allow your personal expansion.  Receiving advice can be beneficial after all!

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