Where do we go when we have problems? Right to our friends, Mom, our favorite Aunt, co-workers, and neighbors. We tell what’s happened to concerned people and listen eagerly to their heartfelt advice. After all, these people care about us and are more objective about the situation than we are. Because they love us, they’ll give us good advice for our life…Right?
Not necessarily. Many have received some very poor advice from well-meaning people. Often that advice results in actions that are not in our best interests. What do I mean? Think about telling others about the argument you had with your boyfriend or husband last night. If you tell a girlfriend who happens to wish your boyfriend or husband were hers, the advice she gives will be slanted in a way that could ultimately benefit her. If you tell your Mom or Aunt, who has never cared for the guy (although she may have never told you that), she will likely tell you to leave him. Neighbors, friends, and co-workers may not have an agenda at all, but they may give you bad advice because they don’t know any better or are tired of hearing about your relationship troubles.
Before sharing a personal situation with anyone, we should look carefully at the person with whom we plan to share. Is his or her life in good shape? Is his or her personal life filled with “model” relationships? All too often we take relationship advice from people whose personal lives are in shambles. It’s true that there may be value in listening to people who have made a lot of mistakes, but only if we put their advice in the category of “don’t let this happen to me.”
If you want to know how to improve your marriage, find and listen to someone who’s had a good marriage for a long time. If you want to know how to better communicate with your children, find someone who’s an amazing parent, and learn how he or she has developed good relationships with his or her kids. If you want to know how to get along better with people on the job, find someone who seems to be able to get along with just about everyone, and ask how he or she does it.
Just like you wouldn’t go to a hairdresser to learn how to change the oil on your car, or you wouldn’t go to the mechanic to learn how to color your hair, don’t seek relationship advice from people who aren’t qualified to give good, quality advice.
When you get conflicting advice and are not sure who to listen to, consider two things: (1) the quality of the life of the person giving the advice and (2) the possible motives of the person.
If the person telling you what you should or shouldn’t do doesn’t have his or her life “together,” I strongly encourage you to dismiss their advice. If that person cannot get his or her own life in order, they are not qualified to tell anyone else what to do. On the other hand, if the person giving advice has a measure of joy, peace, and good relationships, listen carefully to the advice and consider how best to implement it in your life.
If that alone doesn’t clarify who you should listen to, consider what the person giving advice stands to gain from you. List what the “advice givers” have done or can do for you as well as what you have done or can do for them. This will help you see clearly who has your best interests at heart.
For example, if someone is suggesting you do something that will ultimately benefit that person, ask yourself honestly if it’s possible that his or her motives for gain are overriding his or her concern for your well being. For example, if someone suggests that you move in with him or her, is it because that person wants to control you, needs someone to help share their rent, give him or her rides, be his or her companion to avoid loneliness, etc.
Too often people who have been mistreated in some way fail to even consider their own wants and needs. They tend to do things for others that a healthy person wouldn’t consider doing. They will often subjugate their own needs for the needs of someone who is trying to use them for their own purposes. Sadly, they often don’t even see it. They often mistake another person’s self-serving advice for love and care.
The first step in valuing ourselves is to consider what’s best for you. This isn’t selfish. You can’t help others and be who you were created to be until you first value and care for yourself. Once you’re healthy and whole, you are better equipped to help others in healthy ways.
Finally, to choose between conflicting advice, go with the option where you feel the most peace–regardless of how much pressure may be put on you to do something else. You might ask the “advice giver” to give you some time without contacting you in any way so that you can quietly process the information, and feel in your gut what is right for you. YOUR peace must rule your decisions if you’re going to have success.
Rhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, was abandoned at the age of 6 months, raised by a mentally ill man and an alcoholic woman in a bizarre, emotional roller coaster of a childhood. Rhonda Sciortino used the coping skills from her childhood survival to start her own business and develop it, along with her other investments, into a multi-million dollar balance sheet. She credits a brief stay with a wonderful foster family for teaching her that there was a better way to live. Through her speaking, writing, podcast, and videos she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to a great future.