Updated: Aug 30, 2019
I am sure you can relate when I say that I have been given some impactful yet lousy advice in my life, spirit-stifling, course-altering, life-limiting kind of stuff. Often, this advice came from high-level business leaders, spiritual leaders, close friends, and family members that I respected and looked to for guidance. To be clear, I am not talking about medical, psychological, legal, financial, etc. types of guidance. I am talking about the advice I received about my ideas, ways of operating, motives, aspirations, etc. What is just as unfortunate is I am sure that I have given some awful advice to others, even though I know I had the best of intention. I am as certain of my good intention as I am that others had the best of intention in the advice they gave to me.
So how does so much good intention go bad?
We leverage our limited information and expertise, sometimes working only from what is top of mind at the moment
We come from our perspective and our pain, not understanding the other person's point of view or visibility from where they stand
We make quick evaluations, not taking the time to search for alternatives and problem solve sufficiently
We impose our values and system of judgment, not considering, exploring, or understanding the different decision criteria and values of the other person
So how can bad advice have amazing benefits?
If we take some time to examine the guidance from many angles, to take in additional information and perspectives to gain better context for the guidance, to explore how it potentially could be of value, and to look inside ourselves to understand what is right and true for us, we can get incredible benefits from bad advice. It is the analyzing of the ideas, searching out new information and points of view, exploration of uses, and examination of one's values that are the benefit. When this is done the following happens
We gain new knowledge and expertise to leverage moving forward
Our perspective grows, shifts, and becomes more adept at meeting the current demands of our life
The creativity and insights generated from combining disparate thoughts help us to craft new ideas and ways of operating
Our values become more defined and leverageable for how we want to grow and impact the world
We can also take the benefits of bad advice one step further to understand the person who gave the advice better, what they are struggling with, and what is important to them. We can see how their reactions to events have shaped their view of the world and how they operate in it. It also helps us to have compassion for them when needed.
Taking this time helps us to actively choose how to respond to something affecting us or the decision we need to make in a way that is integrity with whom we want to be as well as choose our attitude along the way.
As a reminder, to myself as much as everyone else, it is helpful when approached by someone else asking for or needing help to slow down and understand what is of value to the person and what their goals are in life. Then, elicit all the relevant information, help the person come up with creative alternatives, and let them judge what is best for themselves. Not only will the person discover a better path forward, but we will gain incredible insights of our own and fostered a deeper connection with the person we care about along the way.
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