|People like to give advice. And apparently some people like to get it. I’ll be the first to admit that even I can use a little advice from time to time. In fact, that’s why I go to the movies. Most people might go to movies for entertainment, but not me. In between the car chases and small explosions, those movie scripts ooze words of pure wisdom. I believe that screen writers could easily moonlight as advice columnists.
The movie Best of Show, features a disparate group of hapless, but devoted dog lovers who go to great lengths to prepare their K-9 companions for an annual dog show. In one scene, a laid back, outdoorsy dog owner, played by Christopher Guest, prepares his camper to make the long trek to enter his dog in the show. Just as he is about to drive away, a wise and caring friend tells him “if you get tired, rest awhile.” “If you get hungry, eat something.” I don’t know of anyone on this planet who couldn’t benefit from that bit of advice. And for only the price of a movie ticket.
I recently became a certified scuba diver. In other words, I have been given a license to abandon an atmosphere where oxygen is plentiful to enter the aquatic under world to hob knob with the creatures that are actually supposed to be there. Just before taking my first underwater excursion, a friend told me “don’t forget to breathe.” You can’t make this stuff up. What’s more, I have often found this advice to be equally useful when I’m not in the water.
Sometimes the advice people give comes just at the right time. On one occasion I went to help some new neighbors move into a house on my block. To carry in a particularly large piece of furniture, it was necessary to remove their sliding glass door. As I was pulling the door from its frame, my new neighbor came in and told me not to break her door. That was a close call.
So why do people seem to like doling out advice as if it was some kind of a door prize? People like giving advice—even the kind that can clearly go without saying. Given the number of advice columnists and talk show hosts who give counsel on all the critical issues of the day such as forbidden love affairs and athletes foot cream, apparently people like getting advice.
My research on the topic revealed that some experts agree that giving advice feels much better than receiving it. However, if the advice is unsolicited it can actually be a disservice to the receiver assuming the person is still listening after hearing the words, “would you like some advice?”
Agatha Christie once said, “Good advice is certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.”
Those of you who are parents probably recognize this. Parents must be the best advice givers in the world because they seem to do it often. Aside from the pertinent “duck and run for cover,” “stop, drop, and roll,” and my personal favorite, “don’t drive on the railroad tracks,” advice is what we give our kids to prevent having to vicariously relive the mistakes we made at their age.
My daughter is currently declaring her independence. I say it’s about time—she’s already six. A couple of weeks ago, she set out to open a bag of potato chips. Her tool of choice for the task was a kitchen knife with a blade the size of Nebraska. My parental instincts immediately sprung into action, I rushed over to her and gave her some advice. I said, “Be careful.” We all do it. It’s as if those immortal words are all that is needed to prevent a trip to the emergency room. She just gave me that look that said, “No, Dad, I plan to be as reckless as I can when faced with the prospect of severing every finger on my left hand for the sake of opening a bag of snack food.”
Now, of course, I wasn’t just handed the parental baton yesterday. I have a few gems of my own sage advice to offer up. Later that day when we were sitting in the emergency room waiting for my other daughter to have her ankle looked at, my five-year-old proclaimed that she was hungry. I looked at her and said “you should eat something.”