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Good and Bad Advice

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

This line has got to be one of the worst pieces of advice.

Everyone likes to give advice -- mere acquaintances, friends, distant relatives, close relatives, parents and children (not to mention talk show hosts). Most of it is well-meaning. Some of it is innocuous. Some of it is actually good. And some of it is downright bad.

The biggest victims of this "wise" generation seem to be brides and new parents, although one only has to suggest a slight difficulty to be immediately moved into the "advice-needy" category.

When the advice is irrelevant, it is a gesture of kindness on the part of the listener to just nod and smile gratefully. When the advice is good, our appreciation should be more genuine.

But we need to be concerned about bad advice. Ethics of our Fathers is filled with admonitions for those who would dispense their advice freely with not enough thought to either the wisdom of their words or the consequences of acting on them. Accepting advice is much like purchasing merchandise -- "caveat emptor" -- let the buyer (listener) beware.

No one is objective. Everyone's advice is tainted (albeit subconsciously) by the impact of their own needs and desires.

Sometimes advice givers just repeat the same words of wisdom that "everyone says." Sometimes "everyone" is right. Unfortunately, sometimes they're also wrong.

For the generation who cried its way through repeated viewings of "Love Story," the words "Love means never having to say you're sorry" have imprinted themselves on our minds. We need to do serious and constant damage control to root out this trite yet potentially destructive idea because the truth is just the opposite.

Love means frequently having to say you're sorry: to a spouse ("I'm sorry I hurt your feelings by not paying more attention to you."); to a child ("I'm sorry I lost my temper with you."); to a friend ("I'm sorry; I should have given you the benefit of the doubt."). Admitting we may have made a mistake, apologizing for hurting those we care about, intentionally or unintentionally, taking the first step towards reconciliation -- these are the keys to a successful relationship.

No one can cause us pain like those we love, and no one's apology means more.

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