‘I may not necessarily take your advice’.
Now I’m sure most of us including me will cringe at this, but this write-up doesn’t address the people who just can’t take advice; rather, it addresses the need for some people to always offer advice. As Chimamanda put it in her novel ‘the tendency of Nigerian women (actually Nigerians in general) to offer sanctimonious advice’. I believe in giving constructive feedback to people afterall, a good friend will tell you if your mouth smells and will help you avoid silly mistakes and clean up the ones you weren’t smart enough to avoid.
If giving constructive feedback (i.e, advice) is indeed a mark of being a good friend or person, how come relationships are lost based on this? ‘She stopped talking to me just because I advised her‘, ‘Bob just doesn’t know how to mind hisown business so I’ve learnt to keep my own distance‘. Giving advice, therefore, sometimes feels like a Catch 22.
Here are some tips I drew up. This is more like a checklist before you offer advice – so as to keep the relationships you have while getting the people in your lives to make the desired changes.
Know your position in the advisee’s life
It is one thing for you to consider yourself a person’s friend, it is another thing for the person to consider you a friend. I can tell my best friend anything because we’ve been friends for too long for anything to destroy our friendship. However, with a more casual acquaintance, I’ll have to tread carefully. While we’re on this, don’t even think of advising your boss, unless in situations where… No, just don’t. You can offer suggestions but no advice.
Know the personality of the person
If the REAL reason for giving advice is to see a desired change, then we should understand the personality of the person being advised. Some people do not like public rebuke, if you know this, don’t rebuke publicly. Some people will argue first before agreeing with you, then let them argue. This may seem far-fetched, but some people just don’t want YOU to advice them (I have seen this happen amongst ‘friends’). If you really care, send them a book or ask someone they respect to offer that advice.
Have the Right Motive
Really sister, when you publicly call your other girl out, is it really ‘for her own good’ or does a part of you want to bring her down? When you point the flaws in your colleagues work in front of the boss, are you sure you’re just not trying to show you deserve that promotion?’ I’ve watched people ‘advise’ others with the intent to bring them down, sometimes too, it could be a psychological boost, to show they’re better in a way. After-all, if you’re offering advice, you have to be better than the advisee in a way?.
Understand That the Right to Advise is Earned
I hardly offer relationship/marital advice to friends unless specifically asked because I’m single. Yes dears, remember the bible phrase ‘Physician heal thyself’. If you haven’t really proven yourself as a success in an area, people sometimes do not want to listen to you. People also wait for you to prove that they can trust you or you really care before they listen to you. Lots of people have been hurt, you hear some stories and you wonder how people can ever trust or love again. Remember, people don’t care how much you know, untill they know how much you care.
Be Humble About Offering Advice
You do not know everything about anyone including your child neither do you really know people’s motives ( isn’t it annoying how people meet you and in 6 months believe they know everything about you?). Understand that people are intelligent in their own way and if they have been acting in a manner, there are reasons for this. So in advising others, respect whatever intelligence informed the wrong behavior in need of change before you start talking.
Walk Your Own Path
You have advised, they didn’t listen, keep quiet and mind your own business. People only change when they want to and when someone REALLY wants to change, they’ll find the means to, remember ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’. But if you’re really bothered, say a prayer and ask God to handle it.
To the advisee, those of you on the receiving end of the advise, here are some tips to also keep the relationships that matter to you.
For every one person who comes to advise you, there are usually 10 people talking behind your back. Okay there’s no research to back this data, but the point is you need to appreciate the people who tell you about negative behaviors that need changing.
Listen and Reflect
God gave us two ears and one mouth remember? Listen non-judgmentally to what is being said and even if you don’t agree, reflect and consider ways you can improve.
Don’t Take it Personal
An opinion was being expressed and someone just told you how they see you, it is not a personal attack on you so calm down.
To both the adviser and advisee:
It is not that serious. It is not by force I take your advice and it isn’t compulsory you agree with my point of view. There are more serious issues, people are dying everyday so please no need to fight over something as flimsy as you not liking the way I drink, or talk, or whatever.
Appreciate Our Differences
In life, there is your truth and my truth and none of these truths are absolute. We bring different things to the table hence we behave differently. Remember God the Master artist, made us differently cos if everyone was the same, the world would be one boring place. So appreciate the people in your life.
Have a Sense of Humour
Smile, laugh, see the joke in everything. Nothing is by force. God alone rules the world, it’s not our place to help God rule the world. It’s our job to enjoy the world.
Love Your Neighbour. See the good in everyone and seek peace
Love can make the lion and lamb live together peacefully. Think the best of everyone you meet and seek to keep the peace.
I’ll leave you with one of my father’s words to me before he died, ‘Always strive to be a perfume and not an odour’.