On Giving Advice

Do you give advice?

I do.

I tend to hand out a lot of advice, actually. This is partly because I’m a fascinating man with a wide variety of life experiences, and partly because I know everything about everything. Well, I mean, I was wrong once. I thought I was wrong, but it turned out I was right. Now, there is a certain art to handing out advice. A technique, if you will, that will readily distinguish the classic and selfless conveyor of valuable information from the sort of random mumbling nutbag often found on street corners and public transportation. (And because I know that someone who thinks they’re clever will at this point ask ‘which one are you again?’ I’ll go ahead and assert that I am the selfless conveyor, and not the mumbling nutbag.)

If you want to be able to give good advice, here are some things that I have found to be helpful. Like the Ten Commandments, the first two are the most important.

1. Start by asking “Do you want my advice?” This helps you avoid wasting your time on someone who is not going to listen to you. Also, there are only a few things in this world more unwelcome than unsolicited advice and adhering to this rule may help you avoid getting thrown out of a window,

2. You have to listen. Even if they’re boring, you still have to listen. Listening is the key to giving good advice.

These next three aren’t always strictly necessary but like with a magician, people often appreciate a little showmanship, it makes them feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.

3. Start by leaning back in your chair. If you like, and you’re not too clumsy, maybe tip it back onto two legs. This indicates that you’re looking at The Big Picture, and appreciating their problem’s place in The Wider Scope of Things.

4. Narrow your eyes. This indicates that you’re bringing all of your considerable brain-power to bear on the problem. You may also wish to make some sort of sucking sound with your teeth, to indicate that you’re thinking really hard.

5. Lean forward again and/or let your chair thump back onto all four legs. This indicates that you’re come to a decision, and are now ready to render a verdict in the case of Person You Know v. Problem.

Now we come to the actual advice giving.

6. Extend your dominant hand and wag your index finger in their general direction. This focuses their attention and primes them for the pearls of wisdom you’re about to bestow. Then preface your remarks with one of the following phrases: ‘I tell you what…’; ‘You know what you oughta do…’ or ‘Here’s what you oughta do…’ It’s a nice little formality before the chaos, kind of like how the The Star-Spangled Banner is played before a Lions game.

7. Depending on the kind of advice handed out, it may be necessary to add some sort of disclaimer. These may include, but are not limited to, such statements as ‘but that’s just me…’ or ‘I’m not a lawyer, though.’

It should be noted that, all jokes aside, giving advice is an actual responsibility and should be taken fairly seriously.

– Don’t give people bad advice on purpose because you think it’s funny. That’s a dick move.

– Don’t tell them what you think they want to hear, tell them what you honestly think is the best thing for them to do.

– Don’t tell what you want them to do, or what will work out best for you. That’s also a dick move, especially the latter.

– Tell them honestly what you think is the best thing for them to do and then leave it be. At this point, it’s up to them. Whether they take your advice or not, if you’ve done the best you can by them, then your conscience is clear.



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