(This is a re-write of the original article)
After many years of seeking the advice of friends and family, I’ve made a rule to only go to people with a certain degree of experience and insight, people I can trust or people who’ve worked their way out of difficulties.
Generally speaking I’ve found people are sincere when they suggest X or advise against Y. However, there are a certain number of pitfalls I could have saved myself falling into had I gone to the right people first.
One is that people often give the advice they want to hear themselves giving. They may want to hear themselves uttering words like “have patience” or “you need to fight your ego”. Not because they would do so in your position, but because it makes them feel like they’re good, nice people with infinite patience and the holiest of instincts.
Another is that many people live lives that are out of balance, but don’t admit to it. When they use their experience and instincts to advise you, they are really describing how you can get to where they are – and that may not be in your best interests.
I also discovered (the hard way) that advisors won’t have to live with the consequences of their advice. It is a lot easier to utter empty words than to act on them, to follow through, and to live with any discomfort they create. A few times the well-intentioned advice of another held me back or landed me in a mess when I put it into practice.
Another factor to consider is that in order to offer good advice, someone will need to know the whole story (preferably from all those involved). Unless there is an excellent reason for re-hashing old issues or explaining someone’s faults in great detail, it’s usually best to talk only to those who are qualified and need/want to know. Otherwise you can find yourself in the throes of an endless pity-party, falling into backbiting, or miserable as you become problem (rather than solution) focussed.
Finally, I found there are a few whose words of wisdom are self-serving. “Do what I suggest for the sake of your soul!” or “Gimme, gimme, gimme because I want, want, want!” This is a clear example of bad boundaries, and can have dire consequences if you end up giving to the wrong people and neglecting those who really do deserve or need you.
I am sure many of those who subscribe to C&S have direct experience of going to the wrong place for advice, and realising too late that they’ve made a booboo. Perhaps the best advice I ever heard on the subject was “you live the life you make for yourself,” which can mean that you must decide what advice is good and what applies to you, because you are the one who will have to live with the consequences of your decisions and actions.