Thursday, February 24, 2005

Advice

Most people don't know that, when reading a magazine or newspaper, I almost always read the advice columns. Not because I care about peoples' personal problems (unless I know you personally, I usually don't), but because I am curious to see if the advice I would have given matches that given by the columnist.
This is made more unusual by the fact that I very rarely give advice, even to people I know well and who ask for it. There are a number of reasons for this. First, I despise receiving unsolicited advice, and this has made me unfavorably disposed towards giving even solicited advice. Second, I think of advice as medicine: a foreign substance that, while possibly helpful, can be harmful if administered too early or in the wrong amount. Generally speaking, people know their lives better than I do, so how can I hope to provide reliable advice on those lives?
When I am called upon to give advice, I usually try not to provide answers, but to clarify the question and let the requestor come to his/her own conclusions. That is in my opinion a more helpful tactic, and it keeps me out of trouble in terms of giving advice that turns out badly. This sometimes aggravates those who know me. My brother once really had to verbally hammer at me to get me to provide specific advice on a matter he'd asked about. I wasn't intentionally being coy, but I've spent so many years avoiding advice-giving that reticence came naturally.
Non sequitor: For some reason my blog is not accepting hard returns so I can properly space paragraphs. Sorry!

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