There are several things in this world I absolutely cannot stand:
Loud, invasive noises;
When people don't blink for long periods of time (it makes me uncomfortable);
and last, but DEF not least....
unsolicited, cliché advice.
That's right, I struggle in a major way with cliché advice.
Historically, I have judged people who use them all of the time (and continuously have to monitor myself) because clichés don't seem real.
They are typically unsolicited, used to make the person who is giving the advice feel better, gives everyone involved a false sense of wisdom and truth and don't provide clear, practical solutions.
And I really love clear, practical solutions AND I really love healthy advice.
I took some time to think about cliché advice that I'm sure I've given at some point and advice that I've definitely received. Here's 7 pieces of advice that seem okay, but are actually unhealthy.
1. Time heals all.
This is probably some of the worst advice people give. Why? Because time, in fact, does not heal all... time PLUS intentional healing and change heals all. Time in and of itself does not make everything magically "healed" and "new."
We give this advice to people when we have hope of some type of change -- situations, people, relationships and jobs all do have resting potential (I believe most all people and situations have some sort of potential). But, for hope and for potential to be real it has to be grounded in reality.
We know time can heal situations if the people involved make steady change through time and show us, through actions, that our hope is valid. If hope is not valid, it ain't going to be reliable... so don't bank on time alone healing a situation.
2. You don't have a choice.
I've learned that in every single decision there is to be made, there is always a choice. We can often feel as if there isn't one, but sometimes feelings aren't the reality.
Feelings are very, very important when making a choice -- they will tell us what's safe and not safe and let us know what we can and can't live with (#Boundaries101). However whenever we rely solely on our emotions and do not combine them with rational decision making, we will always feel like there is not a choice.
We give the "you-don't-have-a-choice" advice whenever we are looking for a very specific outcome-- when we're trying to control what happens and how other people feel. Sadly choice, people and emotions don't work like that, though.
When people get in predicaments where they feel as if there are no options, instead of giving cliché, unsolicited advice, we should start asking the question: Can you live with any outcome?
3. Never give up.
I am a firm believer in hard work and dedication -- I will work and work and work... then work some more because I know I've got 10% left to give, then work a little for the 10% you have left to give.
I grew up understanding that discipline and work ethic are the key to success -- my problem was, I was so married to this idea that I thought hard work and "not giving up" would fix most all situations. W R O N G.
If this advice is given as a blanket statement, it's very problematic -- there are some relationships, jobs, projects, and other life things we should let go. If something is harmful to our health, physical safety and emotional safety, we should 100% abandon whatever that is long enough to create healthy boundaries.
For example, imagine giving this advice to a woman in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, or giving this advice to an 18-year old who tries to study the exact same way, but keeps failing the tests again and again.
This advice only works if we discuss the importance of change, adaptation and safety. If those characteristics are the cornerstone of hard work, then we can continue to push onward. If they are not the most important features of hard work... then this advice is not productive.
4. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
The intention of this advice is not bad -- I like that it considers other people's feelings. However, some of the things that need to be said may not feel nice for others, but are very necessary. Bottom line, some people and situations need to be addressed and called out.
In my last post, "5 Problems with Passivity and How It's Harmful for a Purposeful Life", I address Dr. Henry Cloud's concept of Harm VS Hurt. Hurting someone's feelings is unavoidable; we're going to do this at some point in our lives. In addition, the emotion of "hurt" can be useful for making much needed change.
I'm not suggesting we go and intentionally hurt someone's feelings with our words; that's not fair or loving. But if we're communicating the truth from a place of love and that does hurt someone's feelings... then that's a much different story.
We could re-frame this advice if we asked ourselves these questions BEFORE we speak.
Does this comment help move the conversation forward?
What are my intentions in saying this?
How can I communicate in a direct and clear way without being mean?
Sometimes I think we give this advice whenever we're trying to mitigate our own emotions in a circumstance, or if we don't want people to think badly about us. However, we can't control what people think and it's better to say what you're feeling (emotions are neither good or bad) than hold back and tell an untruth because it feels nice.
5. Don't care about what anyone thinks.
We often ascribe to this mantra after heartbreak, a challenging circumstance, or whenever we're just 100% over absorbing the opinions of others. Trust me, I've been there, said this and certainly done all of that.
We implement this advice when we're feeling very, very resentful or angry -- more than likely, it's when we're struggling to set healthy emotional and physical boundaries.
The reality is, it does matter what some people think. Our central concern is that we struggle to decide which opinions actually matter, so we inadvertently absorb most all opinions and take them personally.
The key to overcoming this piece of cliché advice is to decide which people in your life have wisdom that's actually valuable -- usually, it's the people who love you unconditionally, have done enough of their own emotional work to not project their "stuff" on to you and people who understand choice and freedom.
6. Failure is not an option.
With every risk we take and for every chance we gamble on, failure is always an option. People who suggest that it's not are generally people who have not taken any sort of risk OR struggle with everything turning out in the most perfect way possible.
We've grown to see failure as a bad thing; our culture continually suggests that loss and defeat are for unsuccessful people. However, the most successful people in this world have a close-knit relationship with failure -- they understand that in order to make any sort of gain, we've got to fail and develop the emotional resilience to try again.
Failure is also necessary - it teaches us how to be courageous, how to stand up to our own fears and how to change. Really, failure is not the worst possible option...the worst possible option is not to take any risks at all.
7. It will work if it's meant to be.
To me, this advice is similar to the "time heals all." I feel like I've given this advice and heard it from people when they didn't know what else to say.
Despite my control-freakness, I do believe there is power in letting things go. There is a natural order to the world that is impacted by choice, but I also understand that we can only control our own thoughts and behaviors.
However, I'm continuously confused at what "meant to be" even means. Not only is it unclear, but it implies that all things just work out WITHOUT any effort, intention, or discipline.
Furthermore, this advice has been given to me when someone, or something, intentionally wanted to keep me in a grey area. If we have ever been in a relationship or worked at a job where expectations are completely non-existent or unclear, we rely on the "meant to be line" to give us some sort of hope.
Like I said before, hope works whenever reality and truth is interwoven into the conversation -- hope doesn't work when we ar