“When many voices are speaking at once, listen to the one most quiet and gentle. That’s the one worth listening to.” – Miranda Linda Weisz
I recently opened my home to a visiting friend on a fact finding mission. Her life had become a “hot mess” (her words) and she was ready for change. The repetitive pattern of lousy relationships had taken their toll. It was time to start over – a new life in a new locale.
The original visit was to be no more than a couple of days. From there she would explore other possibilities. But she fell in love with the coast and remained. For 7 long days I altered my life. My sacred home would be no more.
Ironically, this friend is a high end life-coach. She excels at her work for others. In her own life however, there are wounds to heal. Suffice it to say, a “hot mess” in close proximity wears thin pretty quickly.
This friend is a “compulsive coacher”, challenging every conversation in ways that cause strain – ensuring the last disagreeable word to clinch victory. It was exhausting. I live in a house of peace. I enjoy thought-provoking conversations, but not at the expense of another.
As the week progressed, the conversations became increasingly one-sided. Advice became the norm – followed closely by its cousins, opinion and denial. This “terrible” trio of negativity has an oppressive life force of its own. I was ready to pack up and leave the safety of my own home.
Advice at the best of times is annoying. Advice, under the guise of coaching grates on the soul.
The continued imposition of advice shut me down. I withdrew…until I blew. Admittedly, there are areas in my life where I can do better. Namely my boundary setting skills. If anything, I learned from this visit the need to speak out long before I feel the need for flight…or fight. As my amazing mentor Louise LeBrun says, this is the practice of authenticity with grace.
When we finally said goodbye, I was relieved. But I also had a nasty taste in my mouth. I felt violated.
Inspiration is brilliant in its ability to show up in the least likely places. Sometimes unpleasant experiences are empowering gifts in ugly packages.
After a few days of processing what transpired, I was prompted by an interesting thought – what would the world be like if we stopped giving advice?
When we examine the root of advice, we see that it comes from an opinion or belief imposed on another under the guise of guidance. Advice is never without bias and often has a patronizing stench to it. In other words, advice is judgment in drag.
Advice is a filtered worldview based on personal opinions, fears, unhealed wounds, insecurities, perceptions, thoughts, and experiences. It is often relayed as gospel – with a pinch of arrogance here, and a dash of superiority there.
When we impose our worldviews on another under the guise of advice, we encourage conformity (to OUR beliefs, strategies or worldviews). We also diminish the self worth of the recipient by implying that they are incapable of discovering their own solutions. Advice is a form of projection – a devious avoidance tactic where we attempt to “fix” the problems of others while avoiding the pain within ourselves. It creates the illusion of superiority in areas of our lives that are otherwise out of control. (Note: Have you ever noticed how persistent advice givers are often control freaks with messy lives?)
Advice is surreptitious in its ability to infiltrate consciousness in ways that bring us down. Perhaps this is not the conscious intent of the advice giver, but it’s often the net end result. Advice removes us from the truth that lives within.
In a world where advice is so ubiquitous, what would it be like if it just vanished?
Instead of giving advice:
What if we no longer imposed our advice/beliefs/worldviews/judgments on others? What if instead, we shared our life experiences, inspiring each another through the power of story? What if we asked empowering questions to facilitate critical thought and potential solutions?
What if we listened more than we spoke; nurturing guidance through the silence of our presence?
Instead of seeking advice:
What if we were ok being lost and confused; accepting that this is an integral part of the journey of self discovery – an inner prompting to expand into more of who we are?
Many years ago, a man shared with me a story of his desperate attempts to end his wife’s drinking problem. His ongoing advice was refused and succeeded in only driving her further away. In the depths of his despair, he learned how to love her without interfering in her personal journey. It changed everything between them. She felt respected, seen, and loved and was finally able to step onto the path towards wholeness. He shared with me a powerful phrase that changed my life – “compassionate detachment.”
This profound combination of words showed me the limitlessness of love and compassion without the imposition of advice, beliefs, or opinions. I learned through the power of this story, that contrary to what culture teaches us, we are the most loving when we respectfully stay out of each others business. By holding compassion in our hearts, we become a loving support system through our presence rather than a smothering nag who thinks they know better.
Sharing our beliefs, experiences, thoughts, and knowledge in ways that invite critical thought inspires and empowers. Imposing our beliefs, experiences, thoughts, and knowledge (usually preceded with words like “you should”), disempowers and disheartens. Advice limits. Inspiration awakens. Inspiration + action liberates. This is the path to wisdom.
The best advice – and the only advice I offer is this:
Regardless what others may tell you; regardless how culture may pressure for you to conform; regardless how lost you may feel; never, ever doubt the truth in your heart. Your heart – your soul always has your back and will always be your greatest adviser.
As Conway Twitty once said; “You can listen to advice, but always follow your heart.”