I’m a teacher. Advising kids on how to study, what to study, how to plan projects, how to cope with parents breaking up and friendships going bad. It’s what I do day by day. So it’s tempting to take it out into my friends and family. The Dear Abby of my social set. I know – you want to invite me over right now to put your life to rights! And really, isn’t it the worst when someone really does do that?
My grand old grandmother writing me a letter on my 30th birthday advising me to be less picky and get married before it’s too late. Very helpful – luckily I could call her right back and tease her about it. She couldn’t help it, she was compelled to tell me her strongly felt thoughts and it really was because she loved me so much. But annoying, and like I hadn’t realized the “Oh my God, I forgot to have children.” moment from the famous cartoon.
Or much worse, when I advised a student who was always raising her hand and basically sucking up to me in front of the class. Would have been better to stick to how the behavior impacted me and the class, rather than try to share details of my life with her and suggest that she had some issues that needed resolving. Way out of my purview. Greatly hurt and angered this very articulate girl who was making a specific choice it turned out.
But why do people advise others without being asked? Self justification – the ‘do what I do’ advice? Control? – extending our sphere of influence can feel so gratifying. Mis-guided intellectual exercise of problem-solving? Fun in a nerdy way, at other’s considerable expense if they are not up for it. But underlying all of these is often just the plain old drive to help.
Helping is what is behind, say Wikipedia. A vast majority of blogs (with some self-promotion thrown in). It’s a drive as powerful as curiosity and it makes us happier. According to research 🙂 and well, duh.
Advice on HELPFUL advice? Well first it depends if anyone wants to know…. So how about I want to know and you give ME some advice? You know I could use it!