While I’m all for being head strong and knowing where you’re going and what you’re doing, occasionally we all seek advise from others. Sometimes we even get advice whether we want it or not. But what sort of advice do you seek and what sort of advice should you take, and weigh into your decisions? Does it depend on the content of the advice itself, or from the person who delivers it to your door?
Being a Mom, an Attorney and a Consultant, advice and guidance are pretty much a way of life.
As a Mom, I know I try to provide my kids with the best guidance I can give them, but I also expect that they will need to discount it and ignore it and “learn the hard way” because that’s exactly how I handled a bunch of the guidance my mom provided me when I was a teen. (She really does appreciate it now when I make a point of saying “You were right about that one, too, Mom.” It’s amazing how clairvoyant that woman is. As much as it may occasionally pain me to admit it.)
As a lawyer and consultant, I can provide advice, guidance, and even cautions to my clients, but they don’t have to do what I say, even though they pay for the opinion. And while it pains me when they choose to ignore the advice, I can’t control their decisions or business, just coach from the sidelines. In retrospect, when someone tells me “You were right, I just wasn’t ready to hear or act on the advice at the time”, I’m happy that the advice is now useful, but I feel badly that they had to do it the hard way first. We then have to pick up the broken pieces and move on, a bit wiser for the next time. In the end, giving great advice makes me a more trusted advisor, but it’s also difficult for people to admit they should have or could have taken another course of action, and chose not to. We all hate making mistakes, even if those mistakes teach us so much more than our successes do.
Even though I give advice often, I need it just as frequently. I trust my spouse, my family and close friends to help me through things, and to provide the perspective I need when I’m too close to situations. While I know my husband, for example, will give me terrific advice, I know it will also often be in the vein of “You know you can do this, so stop whining and get on with it already.” I know my trainer will push me to work hard physically, and will support me emotionally as well, especially when I hit a low point. I know my friends will listen and be gentle when I need it, but also call me on my self-pity and bullcrap when I need it, too.
The people I trust with my emotional stuff and insecurities are wonderful folks who I know won’t think less of me for being vulnerable and human, but will actually respect me more for being real, and that’s what I need most in my advisors. I need people who will help me gain perspective, not just take my side, but really help me see more facets of a problem and look for new ways to approach and conquer it. While I love having friends to be sounding boards, I don’t want just “yes people” who won’t push back. I need and crave the push back, even though it can seem more confrontational- I want to have to be able to justify my actions and beliefs, because it makes me clarify them and become more specific and certain about my choices.
Yet choosing people to be those sounding boards and push back folks is hard. You need to have trust. You need to have a relationship where you understand each other and their perspective on the world. And you need to have friends who are willing to say “What were you thinking?” and laugh with you both before and after life’s tribulations. Finding friends who will be there both to rejoice in your success but also be there to support you in the downtimes may even come as a surprise, when someone steps up to the plate unexpectedly, or someone you thought would always be there deserts you when things get tough. And unfortunately, making these choices wisely is a matter of experience, and the tests of this sort of loyalty and trust only come at the most inconvenient time.
Fortunately, more times than not, I find my friends are there for me when I need them, and I send this out to all of you, as a big thank you for being there and listening and helping out when I’ve needed it. I count you all as some of the biggest blessings in my life, and I just wanted to say thank you.
Lastly, feel free to knock me in the head when I’m being stupid. Make me listen if I’m being tone deaf or silly. I sometimes think I can do it all alone, and you are the folks I rely on to tell me when I’m about go horribly wrong. I really will appreciate it in the end. I promise.