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The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice

via On Being

I asked my caller how that response had made him feel. “I’m sure my friend meant well,” he said, “but his advice left me less at peace.”

The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is.

Many of us “helper” types are as much or more concerned with being seen as good helpers as we are with serving the soul-deep needs of the person who needs help. Witnessing and companioning take time and patience, which we often lack — especially when we’re in the presence of suffering so painful we can barely stand to be there, as if we were in danger of catching a contagious disease. We want to apply our “fix,” then cut and run, figuring we’ve done the best we can to “save” the other person.

Having been on both sides of the fence, this article truly resonated with me. Upon posting it on my Facebook wall, I was surprised to see it being shared by friends who rarely share nor comment on my posts.

(1) Don’t give advice, unless someone insists. Instead, be fully present, listen deeply, and ask the kind of questions that give the other a chance to express more of his or her own truth, whatever it may be.

(2) If you find yourself receiving unwanted advice from someone close to you, smile and ask politely if you can pay a little less this month.

Working hard at this. Since reading this article, I’ve mindfully (it requires constant reminders!) reduced giving un-asked advice. So hard, but so freeing. I used to try so hard to help people, but now it’s about striking a balance.

The article linked to a Wikipedia article on one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quotations: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Puzzled, I clicked through.

Surprised to discover that much of Emerson’s thinking aligns with mine and resolved to read up more about him.

A surprise thrill of the day, his quote is also in the Python (yes, the programming language) style guide. Thrill because I’m currently learning Python to enter the Analytics industry. Talk about pieces aligning.