On Giving And Receiving Advice


My mother would always tell me to be careful whose advice I listened to. That I should seldom take advice from someone who hasn’t been through the experience that I am undergoing. And that oftentimes, people go to people whose advice they want to hear. Till this day, my mother is my best confidante because she’s honest. And she’ll tell me the truth about something whether I want to hear it or not. But she’ll also tell me to take it or leave it. I try to be like her in that way whenever people ask me for advice, even when it’s not what they want to hear.

Giving and receiving advice is really hard. I try to only give it when I’m asked. And even then I try to be detached because if there is anything I have learned at all, it’s that people are ultimately going to do whatever they want to do.  The truth is that sometimes giving advice can be a waste of time and thought. The other problem with giving and receiving advice is something that I was told by one of my mentors this year – “A lot of people give you advice based on their reality; not yours.”

Consider dating, which is always an easy example because it’s something most people can relate to. There are copious amounts of books, articles, and pieces of advice that people are going to tell you take with regard to dating. Heck, I’ve written a few. But ultimately, I’ve been seeing things only from my reality. I admittedly up until the last year or so used to be of the opinion that in relationships, men HAD to lead; they had to make the effort; they had to be the one chasing you. It had come from my mother’s reality. And it had become mine until I chose to alter it. I decided that as much as I love my mum, her reality and mine did not need to be the same.

And I have this debate with friends all the time – about how dating and relationships “ought to be.” But the truth is however much advice we give each other, we’re all basically coming from our own perception of the world. And that perception has certain parameters. Beyond dating, think of all the advice people will give you about your career. Everything from how to format you resume to the type of job you should take, to how to negotiate your compensation. And of course beyond dating and career, people will give you advice about your friends, your hobbies; your entire life. We’re constantly being told what to do and how to do it. And all the while, not recognizing that profound truth that people are telling you what you should do and what you’re capable of doing based on their reality, which could be your reality too. But it doesn’t have to be.

I remember when I first decided that I wanted to write on Thought Catalog. It was around this time last year. I wrote it down and added it to my “Goals” Google Doc. (Yes, I’m a nerd like that.) Particularly, I remember a lady I met at an event who had told me that she had submitted many times to no avail, despite having good readership in her own personal blog and being featured on several other popular sites. She told me that I was a long shot especially because I had been mostly involved in writing for business, career, and non-popular culture issues. And I could have listened but I’m as stubborn as a mule, not to mention telling me I can’t do something is probably the best way to try. Sure, it came to pass many months after that encounter, but if I had listened to her advice, I doubt I’d be writing on here now.

My point is this: Be careful whose advice you’re listening to. I think that a lot of people give a lot of limiting advice. A lot of people limit themselves so naturally they would limit you too. It’s important to listen to what people have to say because oftentimes people who are outside of a situation can see it with more clarity than those in it. But especially whenever people try to belittle and diminish what you can do, something that you want to go for; well funny enough, my advice would be to take it with a grain of salt. And remember that you, before anyone else, are the author of your reality.

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image – Maicon Rodrigo