Giving Me Advice

There seems to be this general perception floating around that I'm bad at taking advice. I've spent a little time and dug into it to really figure out why people would have this general idea. Here's what I've come up with. I'm really bad at taking advice.

I'm not an investigative journalist, but I sure got right down to the brass tacks of that story. It wasn't hard when your primary sources tell you that you're bad at taking advice and your key witness is yourself. It's a pretty open and shut case, as things were, but I haven't gotten to the whole story yet. There's a twist, see.

We're all bad at taking advice. We just go about it differently. Me? I tend to withdraw when a situation or conversation gets tense or uncomfortable or I feel as if I need to be protected. It's not something I can help. It's something I try to fight, but I can feel it even on my face. My jaw tightens. My body won't relax. It's just how I respond, even if I try not to. I never learned that I didn't need to defend myself all the time.

Here's the thing about advice, if you ask me. It's fine to give. You can tell me something you think I should be doing and that can over just fine. You can't, however, determine that what I'm doing is wrong just because you think it is. Ultimately, it's my choice. Advice is a recommendation, not a command. I'm free to take what I want and leave the rest aside.

And that's when I can tell you think I'm especially bad at taking advice. When I can hear in your voice that you've decided what's best for me, and that what I'm doing is not that, and here's what I should do to fix it. I am not a clock with interchangeable parts. I should not be "fixed."

A lot lately, it's seemed like people think I need some brand of tough love. Like the only thing that can get anything through my thick skull is a hammer and a nail and a relentless pounding. Not so. I'm really quite vulnerable lately. The people who get to see that are the ones who can realize that I don't need to be tough loved. I just need to be loved.

Those also end up being the people who get to give me advice.

I'm just talking about me here, but I'm sure there's something more universal to it. Tough love, demanding advice, they work great on Seventh Heaven and movies of the week, but to people like me, the more than vulnerable, they come across as exactly what I know you don't intend. They become unkind. Unloving. And therefore, unwelcome.