Friday, September 25, 2009

To advise or not to advice - that's today's question

If you have done something before and someone is preparing for the same experience and you know from your experience they are not preparing in the proper way, what is the best way to intervene?
Now, I must admit I have gone back and forth about how to answer this question. My first instinct was “intervene”, make sure they know that they are in for and how to properly prepare. But then, I got to thinking and those crazy firing neurons led me down me a different road. Let’s go down that road, shall we?

Who’s to say your way is the only way? Now, it may be the best way, but that’s doesn’t mean it is the only competent way.

Let’s say what we are talking about here, hypothetically, is hiking the Appalachian Trail. You’ve hiked the Trail and your friend Suzy is getting ready to take the trek herself. Now, assuming Suzy knows that you have hiked the trail, there is probably a reason that she isn’t asking you for advice. Here are the reasons I can think of that she would not be interested in your advice:

1. She is already on information overload. You weren’t the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail. The magical interweb is brimming with fact sheets, blogs, newsletters and tips on to hike the Appalachian. And there are even real books on the subject. Plus, every person she has likely told that she is embarking on this journey has had some piece of advice. Wear wool socks! Wear wicking socks! Don’t wear underwear! On and on and on until now she has decided to just pick one source and stick with that as her guide for the Trail. I’m sorry that source wasn’t you.
2. She doesn’t want YOUR advice. She remembers all the whining and complaining you did when you hiked it. She’s seen the pictures of that rash you got because you forgot to bring foot powder. She’s decided to stick with the experts on this one.

3. She’s afraid you’ll get mad if she doesn’t take your advice and she really doesn’t want to deal with an “I told you so” if something does go awry. If the words, “Why’d you even ask me if you weren’t going to take my advice?” have every crossed your pouty lips, then you can see why she left you out of her how-to tour.

No matter what the reason, it’s really not something to stress over. As a person that has an opinion about everything, I can understand the frustration of not sharing that opinion, but when it comes to issues where there is a lot of information available, sometimes we just have to let people figure things out for themselves.

If it is just driving you too crazy to live, then you could try one of these covert “I am going to give you advice – like it or not” efforts.
Invite her over to look at pictures and relive your experience. Note I said invite –not ambush by pulling a bait and switch. You can’t invite her over to watch Bones and drink wine and then “get inspired” to spend the next 2 hours talking Trail talk while Bones wastes away on the Tivo. I would stop being your friend if you did that. So don’t do that.
Do some online research to find a source that just so happens to match exactly what you would have said. I call this the “Trojan horse”. You are really giving your advice through the guise of an innocent computer print out. Mission accomplished.

Ultimately, I would recommend check your “I know the answer ” hat at the door and enjoy the ride. Your friend is preparing for an amazing life experience. The lessons learned are part of the journey. Be there to support her/him through the bruises those lessons sometimes cause. And you never know, he/she may find a way that is even better than yours. Nahh, you’re right, that’s impossible.


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