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24 August 2012

The advice conundrum....

They say that you should not ask others for advice. You don't know what you get.
People react differently when you ask them for advice. There are different categories of responses.
I thought about this when I asked my friend Ajay for a simple advice yesterday. Our company uses Lotus Notes for our Email system. Ajay is a consultant working in our company. He is in the process of leaving his current employer and moving to a new employer. Since Lotus notes do not open in any outside application, I asked Ajay how he proposed porting his current emails to the new company. I also had my mails in Lotus notes and I wanted to see how to port my lotus notes mail to another application.
"Why do I need to read my old mails?", Ajay countered
"This is a very important phase of your life. Don't you want a track of these mails for future reference?" I asked him.
Ajay could have responded with a simple 'No'. But no, he had to prove a point.
"I don't believe in keeping track of my old mails", replied Ajay a bit pompously (I thought), "I believe that once you are out of an organization, you must forget about your past."
"You must always look to future, not to past", Ajay added for good measure.
Ajay's response is a typical way in which people respond to request for advice. I call it the "Why should I?" response.
Another one is the "How can you do this" response. Typical demonstration of this is when the daughter comes and tells "mom, I am pregnant, what should I do?" and the mom answers with "how can you do this to us? Is this the price for our spending our lifetime raising you?".
Yet another response is going to the past history. This happened recently in my case. My son came and told me about how some kids did not let him play.Rather than just listening and empathizing with him, I went like "when I was in class seven, there were some kids who formed a group and ignored me. Instead of sitting and  feeling depressed, I went and joined another group of boys with similar interest".
Wouldn't silence have been a better response in this situation?
A variant of 'How could you do this?' is 'You are always like that' response. Wives often use this response. Husband tells "I forgot to send the passport for renewal.", the immediate reply? "You are always forgetting. You never remember anything. Remember the time when you forgot to....."
Yet another common response is "If I were in your position" response. "If I were in your position, I would go and ask for a raise to my boss" for example.
Old people often comes up with "When I was your age" response. "I don't know why you are struggling to jump over that tree. When I was your age, I could easily hit over that tree" (of course, when you were my age, the tree was only 3 foot tall, now it is 20 Meters tall).
What is the best response to a request of advice?

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