Saturday, July 21, 2018

Some Advice on Advice

I was asked, "I'm very bad at taking my own advice but love helping people with their own personal issues. Does that make me a hypocrite?"

You seem to equate “advice” with helping people, but there are many other ways to help people without offering advice. And, of course quite frequently, even the best advice doesn't help at all.

(Note that I wrote “offering,” not “giving.” You offer, but they need not accept. Nor do you have to accept your own advice. You test it in your mind, or with small actions, and either follow or not, depending on the test’s outcome.)

If you like helping, try asking people what kind (if any) help they want from you. Perhaps they merely want a friendly listener. Or a pat on the back. Or a kick in the rear. Maybe they want you to clean their house. Or carry their heavy package. Maybe they just want a smile.

Stop worrying about labels like “hypocrite,” and start seeking ways to help people the way they want to be helped. Forget the advice business. As Ambrose Bierce says in The Devil’s Dictionary, “Advice is the smallest common coin.”

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