I’m pretty sure that we’ve all heard the saying, “opinions are like buttholes” (yeah, I cleaned that up a bit) and everyone has one. Well, when it comes to the topic of advice, if we’re gonna be real about it, a lot of times all it is, is an opinion too. So, does this mean that we’re never supposed to ask for advice or take any when it’s offered? I mean, I get that since I’m a marriage life coach, it comes off as completely on-brand that I would say that receiving advice can actually be quite beneficial.
At the same time, though, because I’m also aware that there is a lot of bad advice, both online and off, that exists in the universe, I thought it would be a good idea to offer up a bit of a cheat sheet — just so you can know if you someone is actually dropping gems or completely wasting your time. So, let’s get into my advice about advice (and yes, the irony here has not escaped me).
1. It Doesn’t Feel Forced Upon
There are people in my family who are pretty insightful. Problem is, they are also controlling as hell (AS HELL), so their timing and delivery can be super off-putting. And you know what? True confession is because that is a part of my DNA and what I was used to being around for many years, I used to be very similar to them. Whether people wanted it or not, I was gonna give my advice. Regardless of their personality or temperament, I was gonna give it the same way, across the board. Whether I had already given advice, realized they were gonna do the opposite because that’s what always happened in times past, I was still gonna be a-yappin’. And yes, when advice is offered up in this fashion, not only can it feel like someone is trying to cram it down your throat, it has a tinge of being condescending and patronizing too…whether the person on the delivering end realizes it or not.
Without question, sometimes advice can be really good, regardless of how it’s delivered. Still, what people need to remember is advice is to serve as a guide and when you hear the word “guide,” nothing about that carries the energy of being pushed or pulled. So, if that’s how you feel when it comes to some of the advice that you’re hearing right through here, so long as it’s not your ego or pride that’s trying to ignore it (because those things HATE the hear anything but themselves), then at the very least, ask yourself why it’s making you feel so uncomfortable — and why the person on the giving end of the advice, to you, makes you feel as if they are forcing their words on you.
2. It Doesn’t Compromise Your Morals or Values
When it comes to what I do for a living, I hear advice about how to go about doing it better or differently, pretty much on a daily basis; especially when it comes to how I can expand my platform. Here’s the thing, though — although I am a little on the “buck” side when it comes to what I am willing to openly discuss, I’ve got more personal convictions about things than a lot of y’all may think. And when it comes to my morals and value system, I won't budge. Ask any boss I’ve ever had and they’ll vouch for that. So no, you can’t pay me enough money to compromise my standards, no matter what. That’s what having integrity is all about.
Only you know what you stand for. Whatever that is, though, the moment that someone is able to “get you off of your square,” you just took some really bad advice because you should NEVER do ANYTHING that will cause you to shift from what your core beliefs are. And the person who tries to tell you otherwise? That’s who you should shut down, in the advice department, as soon as possible.
3. It’s Not Rooted in Bitterness, Pain or Regret
As it relates to this particular point, an article that I wrote, not too long ago, helps to illustrate my point. In “Ever Wonder What It Means To Be Bitter? The Answer Might Surprise You.,” one of the things that I shared are gross generalizations that are typically rooted in bitterness. That’s why I steer very clear of women who talk about all men being trash. Chile, nothing about that is good advice; you are simply throwing up pain and who wants to eat someone else’s word vomit? I’ll pass. You know, what I oftentimes say to my clients is what I will encourage you to keep in mind — healed and wounded people see things very differently. When advice is snarky, delivered with anger, or even has so much regret attached to it that it basically tries to get you to avoid things due to self-imposed fear — that’s not anything that should be taken to heart.
Here’s an example. I know a divorced guy who had a pretty horrible marriage. For about a year now, he’s been sitting in barbershop chairs telling men to never get married. After hearing him talk about this for a couple of months, I called him out. “Dude, you were warned not to marry ‘her’ and you did it anyway. Not only that but have you told those guys the role that you played as well? If not, shut up. Marriage isn’t bad. Humans jack it up and you’re a good example.”
Again, healed and wounded people see things from a totally different angle. So, if there is any part of you that hears some “advice” and the energy seems dark, strange, or just plain off, be intentional about not allowing it to penetrate. It would be a shame to miss out on something good because you listened to the “misery loves company” chorus.
4. It Avoids “If I Were You” Angles
OK. This one right here can be difficult for pretty much any human to avoid because most of us have grown up hearing advice that starts off with “If I were you….” Still, think about how ridiculous that actually sounds. Being an individual means that our genetic make-up, personality traits, upbringing, likes, and dislikes, personal experiences, and shoot, the list goes on and on, all of which cause us to see life in different ways. And so, when the advice comes from the angle of “If I were you…,” chile, you’re NOT me, so telling/encouraging me to do something based on how you would do it is a bit…futile.
As a marriage life coach, something that I’ve been working on is trying to be as objective as possible while working with my clients. In fact, this is a part of the reason why I roll my eyes whenever people try-and-try-me about not being “qualified” to work with married people when I’ve never been married before. Listen, what y’all need to watch are some of these married therapists/counselors/life coaches because they are peak “If I were you…” advice-givers — and just like every person is unique, so is every marriage. This means that what might work for their unique union may not for another one that is just as exclusive.
Bottom line, while it may be difficult for folks to avoid saying “If I were you…” while delving out advice, listen closely to whether they are inserting themselves and their lives into what they are advising you to do about your own because what works for them may not work for you…simply because they aren’t you.
5. It Challenges You to Evolve
A lot of people don’t want to hear good advice; they merely want to be coddled. That’s unfortunate too because the only way that you can truly evolve as an individual is if you are challenged — and good advice is usually going to do that on some level. And just what are telling signs that what you are hearing is trying to help your personal evolutionary process? It’s encouraging you to break bad habits. It’s encouraging you to see things from a different or broader perspective. It’s encouraging you to set new or higher goals. It’s encouraging you to cultivate better boundaries. It’s encouraging you to manage your time, money, and resources better. In short, it’s encouraging you to take life up a notch.
I won’t lie to y’all — some of the best advice I’ve ever received really tried me because, again, my ego wanted to hear something — anything — else. Yet because I knew that the words were coming from a place of truly caring about me and also because it got to my conscience (more on that in a sec), I couldn’t just ignore it, no matter how much I may have wanted to…because I knew that the advice was calling me to grow up. And yes, sometimes growing pains are just that — PAINFUL. Thing is, when the advice is good, it won’t JUST be painful. It will be highly beneficial to your overall progress as well.
6. It Confirms Some Things in Your Spirit
In the Christian faith, there is something known as spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12). Long story short, they are things that are given by the Holy Spirit to help edify the Church as a whole (if you want to take a spiritual gifts test, a good one is here). I’ve taken several over the years and what always comes up on top is prophecy, wisdom, and discernment. I’m grateful too because it helps me to literally discern when folks are saying something that they just think is going to happen vs. what sounds pretty on track.
For instance, I’ve had people “claim to prophesy” that I’m gonna marry certain individuals. I don’t know what they were smokin’ but…nope. On the flip side, years ago, some women from Jamaica came to a church that I used to visit and when I walked past them, they all said, “Books! Lots and lots of books!” While I’m only on two so far (gonna work on two more this year), because I was already a writer at the time and they didn’t know me from Adam, it confirmed something that I had been praying over and pondering about. The future husbands? I repelled that, pretty much from the moment I heard it.
Again, by no means am I saying that advice is always going to make you feel good. That’s ridiculous and not what confirmation is all about. At the same time, though, when you hear something and it either “clicks” for you or it triggers your conscience on some level, then you know that it is heading in the right direction. Yeah, when it comes to advice pay more attention to how your spirit (check out “Here's Exactly How To Start Protecting Your Spirit”) responds more than how your emotions want to react.
7. It Brings You Peace
Saint Francis de Sales once said, “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” John F. Kennedy once said, “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.” Bernie Siegel once said, “Love and peace of mind do protect us. They allow us to overcome the problems that life hands us. They teach us to survive... to live now... to have the courage to confront each day.” If there’s one thing that all of these quotes have in common, is the fact that they are reminders of what peace looks and lives like.
Good advice. Genuine advice. Helpful advice. It is going to get you that much closer to peace; especially inner peace. Peace encourages calm. Peace encourages love. Peace encourages reconciliation. Peace encourages rest, serenity, and patience — if not immediately, it will create steps that will help to get you there sooner than later. So, just know that if what you’re hearing from someone is encouraging chaos, confusion, and drama, it’s not even close to being the kind of advice that you need. Because “good” and “peace” have A LOT in common.
Therefore, good advice has to have peace somewhere in it too. Simple as that, sis. It really is.
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