Advice is an interesting beast. Some people sell it for a living; others offer it for free; some force it down your throat and then there are those who refuse to give it at all. The one thing that is consistent: advice is opinion. My opinion, your opinion, their opinion, our opinion.
Opinion that has been drawn from personal experience and interpretation. A hoard of data which has been adopted, interpreted, handled, processed and summarised into evidence.
Perhaps it’s the broken hearted girl who thinks that all boys lie. Perhaps it’s the burned business owner who thinks all employees are scabs. Perhaps it’s the consultant who insists it needs to be done their way or you’re stupid. Perhaps it’s the political leader who thinks one minority or sub culture is to blame for everything. Maybe it’s just that every time you wore a particular t-shirt you scored free lunch thus making it your ‘lucky tee’.
Whatever happens in your life, you will gain experience and understanding of yourself and the world around you; even if you choose to do nothing. Keep trucking on because even when it’s darkest, the experience is never wasted.
From this experience, you will gather a huge amount of information sub-consciously and based on past experiences and existing opinions in your life, your brain will start to churn the information.
It sits dormant in your brain until a friend suggests something, or you see an advertisement, or someone else does something to you or some fortune/misfortune comes your way; and then suddenly ‘it all clicks into place’.
You create a hypothesis in your mind and suddenly your mind draws from the huge amount of data you have absorbed and starts to filter and configure. It takes all that rich and meaningless data in your mind and designs it in such a way to support your new view as evidence. You have this ‘ah-ha!’ moment and you wonder why it was foggy all along.
But it wasn’t foggy. You just didn’t have a context to measure it against and so it wasn’t apparent. You may have the content sloshing around upstairs but not the relationship to it.
What you may not realise however is that the components of your new mindset may be the exactly same components of someone with the opposing view; it’s just configured differently. And it’s the experience, your attitude, your sources of influence and general well-being that determines the configuration.
An unfit person is more likely to feel negative and depressed. An unsupported person is more likely to feel resentment, envy and pessimism. A veteran is more likely to draw upon the past to make and configure future decisions. A travelled person is more likely to appreciate cultural differences.
Every bit of advice they take, every resource they read and every experience they have will be spent scouring for further evidence to validate their views; even if compelling opposing evidence is right in front of them. People will adapt the content to fit their configured mindset.
Be mindful that when forging opinion and/or issuing advice, you will be working with validation.
When you can understand the way others make opinions – and why – you can start to master how you make your own. It’s easy to read things at a surface level and cite broad concepts. It’s another to really question where your opinions are stemming from and determine if you are being objective or unwittingly influenced.
Opinion and advice is what makes the world go around. It’s a fact of life and it’s how we challenge and grow as a society. It’s a good thing. However to make it a great thing; a powerful influencer rather than a crude room divider, it’s imperative to forge opinion from deep understanding and dispense advice from objective consideration.
Listen more, travel more, keep loving even if you get your heart broken, stand up for yourself, stop apologising for who you are and how you feel and hold your tongue when you want to cast opinion. Look at the situation through their eyes and be honest about how you look to them. Identify keywords, phrases, behaviours and things they make a joke of but really matter. Read body language and non-verbal communication.
Most people don’t think about what they learn, why they learned it and how they apply it. We live in a a process-driven and franchised world of box ticking and list checking. It also is a likely explanation as to why most people have mundane lives.
If you want to grab your life by the horns and make big decisions with greater ease, to build more powerful relationships and to wake up everyday in a state of flow, start with assessing how you forge opinion and cast advice. If you don’t objectively know why you do the things you do, how you can you understand and appreciate why I do the things I do?
I’m being asked for advice a lot lately and it has made me really think. It carries great responsibility and respect that cannot be taken for granted or without care. It’s easy to lose sight of what people are really wanting when they ask for advice; guidance, insight and a sharing of experience. They want help, support and opportunity to put their data forward and check that their configuration is going to serve their wants and needs. They aren’t really wanting a personal character assassination or for you to casually dissect their being.
They might take your advice, they might take a part of it, they might not take any of it at all. It’s not about you. It’s important to understand that they are in the process gathering evidence to validate their hypothesis and so you have a choice. Validate them, fight them or encourage mindfulness.
By engaging mindfulness, you might reveal that they are deficient in quality information or haven’t considered the views of others. Just maybe, mindfulness will change their configuration for a more sustainable and fulfilling outcome. Being an unbiased and un-opinionated method of understanding the situation, the results of mindful thinking are also more likely to be taken on board.
Next time someone asks you for advice, exercise mindfulness, resist validating and challenge the configuration, not just the content.