I was good friends with a guy in middle school. Though we drifted apart a bit in high school, we occasionally conversed online and he was always receptive and sympathetic to my problems. When I asked him for advice, often his suggestion would be to smoke some weed and “talk it out” because that’s what worked for him. It was probably some of the worst advice (or at least some of the least applicable yet still earnest advice) I had received. It might not have been good advice for me, but it always made me laugh and feel a little better, so maybe in a way it was good advice.
Likewise, when a friend asks me for advice, the best I can do is to make recommendations based on my own beliefs and experiences. Sometimes the advice I give might not be good advice, but it’s the best advice for the situation. Once, a friend of mine was freaking out because her formal date had ended their night early and hadn’t called her afterwards. When my friend was not assuaged by attempts to tell her that he was just busy and assurances that he was definitely still interested in her, I tried a new approach. I thought to myself, what would make ME feel better if I was in her situation? Finally, I told her, “Ok. There’s really no point in worrying so much. Take a long shower. Slip on some lingerie. Re-paint your nails and put on some lipstick. And when you realize that you’re amazing, this is what he’s missing out on.” I realized that while I might not have any luck in persuading her of her date’s interest, my silly advice could at least give her a bit of self-confidence.
Last spring I signed up to be a College of Arts & Sciences peer advisor to a group of incoming freshmen. Last week I sent out emails to my assigned freshmen, introducing myself a bit and encouraging them to ask me any questions they might have. I was more than a bit excited when one of my advisees introduced himself as an incoming chemistry major and asked for advice on which introductory chemistry and math courses to take. My lengthy reply included strong recommendations for various courses that I had taken and some that I regret not having taken. As I sent the email, I experienced a flood of thoughts and emotions. I realized that in a way I was trying to ‘save’ this guy from all the mistakes I had made as a freshman chem major. I knew that he would be impressionable, and maybe hoped just a little selfishly that he would take my every recommendation to heart and would be thankful that he was receiving such good advice that I never had a chance to hear as a freshman. And I was glad that I could help someone out – that I could give them some useful advice on how to tackle a hard, but rewarding major.
When someone asks you for advice, they are trusting you to help make a decision or solve a problem that they themselves are struggling with. It’s actually kind of a big deal and gives you a lot of power and responsibility.
All day, every day we are bombarded by advice, whether or not we seek it. Your parents have advised you since the day you were born. You go to professors for academic advice, and read Vogue magazine for style advice. The waitress might recommend the special of the day. Your doctor tells you to eat healthier and exercise more. Good advice might not always be advice that you can take. But I’ve found that sometimes the best advice might not be the greatest advice, but what works for you.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Comments section open below!