The Luv Doc: Advice on Advice
In general, people don’t want advice – even when they ask for it
Dear Luv Doc,
My gal pal is dating a horrible guy that is consistently mean and rude to her. She calls it quits, then takes him back, and though she asks for my advice, she never takes it (dump him!). What should I do? Butt out?
- Over it
First of all, whatever I say, don’t take my advice. See what I just did there? If you take my advice you have to not take my advice, and if you don’t take my advice you are essentially taking my advice. Bet you didn’t think I was going to hand you a rhetorical Möbius strip like that, did you? Luv Doc for the win! That is really good advice if you’re looking for some advice that someone is 100% sure to take.
In general, people don’t want advice – even when they ask for it. What they really want is commiseration and corroboration. They want you to agree that what they are doing is everything a normal, sane person would do in the same circumstances. Of course, oftentimes the person asking advice is batshit crazy. I’m not throwing you under that bus, I’m just corroborating your belief that your friend is not acting in a sane and rational manner. See what I did there?
After all, why would anyone choose to stay with a person who is consistently mean and rude to them? That’s just fucking crazy. I am not sure you’ve actually said that to your friend (and if you have, kudos on your candor) but I can certainly understand your frustration with her unwillingness and/or inability to take your advice.
That said, by no means should you butt out. Engaging in long, painful conversations filled with complaints, whining, and crazy rationalizations is part of what it takes to be a true friend. (Well, that and cleaning the vomit out of your passenger seat when your friend couldn’t get the window down in time.) The cool thing about good advice is that, like a shitty bottle of wine or a disgusting fruit cake, it can be re-gifted again and again. You just have to find a way to package it more attractively.
It’s the classic artistic struggle: finding new ways to communicate the same old truths. You have to keep at it like water over stone. Eventually she might get it and you might change her life for the better, but more than likely you’re just going to keep cleaning vomit off your passenger seat and complaining about your crazy friend. So … my advice? Stay strong. Wear rubber gloves.