Saunders' Corner

Giving, and receiving advice

Advice is difficult to give at the best of times (Source: Jo Christian Oterhals via Flickr)

By Sam Saunders

I’ve reflected over the past week that we talk a lot about advice in this section. Now that may sound like I’m stating the bloody obvious, but stick with me for a minute. What I mean by that is that all of our articles are about different topics that people may seek advice on, from STDs and STIs to housing and relationships, but there’s one topic I feel we’ve neglected, as I’ve certainly never seen nor read an advice article on this topic. What I’m talking about is an article that deals with when you should and shouldn’t give and receive advice.

Myself and the two other advice editors are in a bit of a pinch, as we signed up to give advice almost every week, so it makes sense that we would feel in an altruistic, advice-giving position. Our advice is also, due to the fact that it’s either read in a newspaper or online, slightly impersonal, as there’s a barrier between the giver (me, in this situation) and you, who are reading the words I’m currently writing. In my experience, it can be very difficult to know when the situation calls for you to give some sage words to someone, and when it’s best to keep it to yourself. It’s equally as difficult to know when to follow the advice that someone has offered you.That’s the subject of this week’s column and hopefully it’ll give you some pointers when reading the rest of the section as well.

As I said, it can be quite difficult to know when someone (especially if they’re close to you) would benefit from your advice and when it’s not really welcome. One situation that’s easy to navigate is when being directly asked for your advice, as it’s obviously going to be welcome here, and you’d hope to be knowledgeable enough to fulfill their request if they directly asked you; there’s an implication of suitability there in my opinion. I’d say that this is one of the key pieces of advice I’d give on this subject, that you should make sure you have enough of a knowledge or understanding to give someone your opinion on their situation. Drawing from my personal experience, I couldn’t really speak about the positives and negatives of getting a tattoo, for example, because I’ve never had one done.

Also, all of the column topics I’ve written about so far have been things I’ve got personal experience dealing with, such as planning for a year abroad, being on a sports club committee and mental health at university. I couldn’t really have written a (hopefully) well-thought out and useful column if I hadn’t had problems with my mental health whilst studying, for example. Therefore, I’d apply this to your life as well, don’t just give bad advice out willy-nilly, make sure that you’re going to give someone good advice, or at least qualify that you don’t have a great grasp of what you’re talking about. It is a much more difficult thing to know when your advice will be welcomed, so I’ll try and give a few tips on how I would judge it.

First and foremost, make sure the person you want to give advice to is someone you’re close to, be that a friend, partner or work colleague. They’re more likely to respect your opinion and be thankful for the offer, even if it doesn’t end up being followed. Furthermore, if it’s a problem you can relate to, and share your personal experiences in dealing with it (rather than those of someone else) this will also probably be for the best, at least you might end up provoking a discussion with the person instead of them shutting you out completely.

Now we’ll discuss receiving advice and whether or not to follow it. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the internal dilemma when you’ve received advice; namely struggling to decide whether the situation will work out better if you follow the course of action advocated by someone else or stick to your own. I’d say that the situation could be similar to that of giving advice, if the person who advised you is close to you, has your trust, is experienced and knows you well, then it’s probably worth some serious consideration. Obviously you’ve got to make your own mistakes in order to learn from them and grow as a person, but it’s healthy to learn from other people at the same time as well.

There are certain times in my life, mostly when I’ve sat exams or tried to ask a girl out, in which I wish I followed advice that I’d been given a bit more closely than I did. Putting more effort into my exams in school and playing fewer video games would have been a better use of my GCSE summer than the opposite of that, as it turned out in August. That advice came from my parents, and I can only wish that I followed it but hey-ho, you live and learn in this world, so at least that’s a positive.

However, no matter how much of trust the person and value their opinion, I feel that it’s natural human instinct to favour your own idea, even if it’s just a little bit, as no-one likes to be proved wrong. I think that if you really feel that the course of action you’ve selected is best for you, and you’ve got advice from several different sources, then maybe it’s best to follow that, as long as you’re not going to seriously harm yourself in some way.

The advice in these pages, is of course, for all of our readers, and as it’s edited material, you can be sure that it will be presented in a fair and responsible way, that doesn’t encourage harmful behaviour.

That’s it from me this week everyone, I hope that you found this useful, and will make you reflective the next time you think about giving advice and/or following the advice someone has give you.

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