If you spend anytime on social media sites, you will assuredly note instances of individuals posting without giving thought to what is written. It would seem that online societies are the feeding ground for vulgarity, insensitivity, the leveraging of political views, bickering at its finest. It seems that social media is overrun with people with real problems. It may be that most have never learned to accept responsibility for the consequences of their behavior and thus have not taught the brain how to learn the difference between right and wrong.
Fortunately, we each have a brain, In fact all vertebrate and most invertebrates have one, with the exception of sponges, jellyfish, adult sea squirts and starfish. Many mistakenly believe that the brain controls the primary sensory organs such as vision, hearing, balance, taste, and smell, when in truth they only exist in a close proximity to the brain and it is possible that they feed off of the brain and vice versus. The brain is the most complex organ and in the typical human, the largest part of the brain - the cerebral cortex - is estimated to contain 15–33 billion neurons, each connected by synapses to several thousand other neurons. These neurons communicate with one another by carrying signals to distant parts of the brain or body.
All species are genetically programmed to the goal of survival, such as seeking food, water, shelter, and a mate. The motivational system in the brain works largely by a reward–punishment mechanism. When a particular behavior is followed by favorable consequences, the reward mechanism in the brain is activated, which induces structural changes inside the brain that cause the same behavior to be repeated later, whenever a similar situation arises. And therein lies a big problem for humans. Many have never learned to accept responsibility for the consequences of their behavior and thus have not taught the brain how to learn the difference between right and wrong.
It is then that we often ask others for advice, thinking that two brains are better than one. Hopefully, the person who you ask for advice will have learned to think and have taught their brain better. By using our brain wisely, Learning to Think and Thinking to Learn, we become better able to give meaningful advice to others.
As I age, I find myself being the mentor to others on business, love, and especially life itself. It seems that many believe that an older person can give them answers to their every dilemma. They come, looking for simple solutions that are honest and thoughtful.
Surprisingly, it suits me, as I have spent my entire life helping others. However, my first thought is, 'why this person would ask me to help them.' I want to know why they think my advice, my opinion is worthy of their time and I want to know if they will follow the advice. I always have to give considerable thought to the advice that I give. If the advice goes unheeded or the person to whom I give advice makes a bad decision, I could strain my relationship with that person.
As I live in Mexico, in a completely different culture, it is even more difficult to give advice to those who grew up in a different culture. The old adage that, "We are alike on the inside" couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, we are all a product of our culture.
While I do not consider myself an expert on giving advice, I have many years of experience in doing so, and over that time I have put much thought into the subject so that I possess knowledge of giving advice that has worked well for others. Over the years, I have devised a list of 10 rules that I personally follow and present them here for your consideration.
10 Rules for Giving Advice
1. If I find myself unable to give good advice about a particular subject, I am never afraid to admit that, I cannot, in all good consciousness give them advice, but in my desire to help, I will refer them to someone with more knowledge about their particular dilemma. The most important advice I could ever give is to have the integrity to be honest with others, but also with yourself. This is always the best course. If you possess integrity, others will be more likely to respect your advice.
2. Giving good advice is an art form. It should be the most difficult task that you will be asked to do in your life. If it seems to come easy, it may be possible that you have not put enough thought into what you are saying. Go slowly and put a considerable amount of effort in considering the benefits and consequences of your advice. Giving advice is a complex task and requires much thought before taking action that will prove beneficial.
3. Knowing the difference between good and bad advice is extremely important. I look carefully at the consequences of following any advice that I might give, but I also look at the consequences of "not" following the advice. There should be a decided difference between the two. The further these two are apart, the better the advice may be.
4. Others say, "Don't give advice that you yourself would not follow, as it is good test of the strength and feasibility of your advice." I have to disagree with this statement. I believe that advice should be always be given on the basis of what is good for the other person. And, I am careful to separate facts from opinion and present any advice subjectively.
5. All too often, it may appear that the person is asking for advice, when in actuality they are only looking for a sounding board. Never assume that the person wants advice. They may only be seeking compassion, empathy, and understanding, In speaking with others listen intently to assure that you understand their situation and wait patiently until they actually do ask for advice before you do so. Most people will always know more about their particular situation and desires than you. Know that others are never obligated to heed your advice and should they reject what you believe is good advice, decide to live with the fact that others must live with their own decisions.
6. Being an active listener will help you to give advice that is relevant to each unique situation. Seek clarification by asking questions. This not only helps you to provide good advice but it reinforces the fact that you are putting a great amount of thought into your advice and that indeed will be heeded by the other person.
7. I try to not rely solely on my own experience when giving advice, or for that matter, advice that I have given others that may have proved successful for me or others. Each person is facing a unique situation that must be carefully considered. Advising a weak or timid person to act in a bold or aggressive fashion that is beyond their capability may never work for them and thus it would be bad advice for them, while it may work exceptionally well for others. I have found it extremely useful to be able to "read" people well, to give good advice.
8. Many times, advice may seem like a great idea at the time, but ultimately be worse in the long run. The best advice will have greater long term benefits, thus it is extremely important to consider both short and long term consequences and benefits. Until you know both, it is best to not speak up with any advice.
9. Being an adviser is really a lot like being a psychoanalyst. You place yourself in a position of being sensitive to the feelings of others and especially their emotional state as you help another sort though conflicting emotions to decide which conflicting choice is best for them. You must have a natural inclination towards empathy for others in order to present logical advice.
10. At times, it is more beneficial to not give advice outright, but rather assist others to come to their own conclusion. Listening to others while they cover all their alternative choices is usually the best manner in which to help them. Asking leading questions that you have in your own mind, but not giving answers will push others to think for themselves. The advantage to this is that the person who comes to their own conclusion will more likely heed that they assume is their own logical decision. You should be most interested in help them Learn to Think - Think to Learn!
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