On Giving Advice

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By Kirk McCarley,

As the parent of adult children, one of the disciplines I’ve tried to stick to has been refraining from giving advice.  Without doubt I’ve fallen short of that aspiration at times.

I have shared with my son, daughter, and their respective spouses that one of the greatest gifts they can give is the act of asking for advice.  On those occasions where advice is sought interestingly, my responses are often rhetorical, where the first comment is to ask them, “what do you think you should do?”

I aim to also say, “thank you for asking for my opinion.”  To be viewed as a sage of wise counsel and thought is of highest esteem.

Years ago, I worked for a mayor in a small community, an elected official.  There was another office holder in a somewhat complementary agency who was garnering a reputation as being outspoken, surly, and often rude.  It was vital that the two officials enjoy a compatible working relationship for the sake of not only their respective jurisdictions, but in serving the public well.

The mayor shared his story.

“I invited him to lunch.  Once seated, as expected he went through a laundry list of things that he found disagreeable:  road and bridge issues, law enforcement, and intergovernmental relations.  His complaints could be wearisome, but again I was accustomed to his laments.  Amid his soap box, came a sigh and a pause.  He hesitated, turned towards me and asked why he was not achieving the successes he had not only campaigned on, but wanted.”

He then asked, “What do you believe people think of me?”

The two men exchanged tense eye contact.  The mayor replied, “do you really want to know?” to which the response was “yes.”  The mayor proceeded to say, “then ask me again.”

Again, “Tell me what you think people think of me.”  Now with permission to speak freely the mayor then shared that although his colleague demonstrated a high level of zest, energy, and passion for his role, he had basically isolated himself.”  The mayor added that as a result, people were hesitant to approach him, thus compromising his effectiveness.  In summary, the mayor said to him, “I believe you are angry.”   The lines of communication officially opened.

The Legacy Project launched nearly 20 years ago in an effort to collect practical advice for living from many of us who have “been around for a while.”  The advice ranges from how to be happy on a day-to-day basis, secrets to a successful marriage, and tips on raising children and enjoying a fulfilling career.  The act of giving advice found an audience.

One man offered,

“One always wants one’s children to be happy, and I suppose the most disturbing thing for parents is when they can’t see happiness in their adult children’s lives or their children’s relationships or in their marriages.  You worry about aspects of their interaction with their partners and when you can see that the way they’re interacting is not productive, you worry about your children.”

Another writer shared,

“You keep your mouth shut.  We made our mistakes, we let them make their mistakes.  But I don’t give advice unless they really ask for it.  I feel I can say most anything I want, except I would not interfere with them, even though I see something that I think should be handled differently.”

A graduate of the University of North Texas, Kirk McCarley is a Certified Professional Coach as well as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and SHRM-CP Certified. He also is a Production Assistant for both college football and basketball for ESPN and leads group cycling classes as a Certified Spinning instructor. Contact kirk@theseedsowercoach.com, theseedsowercoach.com, or call  314-677-8779.

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