the not so perilous side of good advice

It’s true that it’s easy to give advice. It’s much harder to take, that’s for sure. But lately I have been thinking back to some sage old advice from people I knew who are past old – and indeed past – may they rest in peace – as well as some other people who are thankfully, still part of my life.

Everyone has a hidden agenda.
My GrandMaman used to say  that everyone has an “agenda cache”. And she would know. With 14 kids, a fair shwack of daugthers and sons in law as well as dozens (literally) of grand children, if she wasn’t an expert in human nature, I don’t know who could have been. As a mom myself, I’ve come to learn that my kids have expectations and  aspirations. The trick is being present enough to figure them out. Same goes for friends, neighbours and colleagues. If you care about people, you have to take the time to figure out what they need. Which brings to mind the ever present SmartCentre development in Salmon Arm. For or against, we have to figure out what each of us needs to make community work.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
On the english side of my family, my Grandmother used to say that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That’s a big order for a French Canadian like me. The threat of assimilation means  you never stop speaking out lest you be muzzled further. Which might help to explain why the Bloc Quebecois says so many seemingly dumb things in the English media. But on second thought, I think my Grandmother was right. And believe me, she could have said plenty of nasty things in her depression era patriarchal society days. But she didn’t.  Because it’s less about what you say (there we go with the hidden agendas again) and more about what you do. And she did her fair share of doing, of that there is no doubt.

Sports Metaphors
My Dad enjoys a good sports metaphor – something Vinny Testarverde legendary QB for the NY Jets said will often come up when he’s dispensing fatherly advice. Don’t forget. Don’t forgive. Do Something – or something along those lines. Also good advice to take. Especially the Do Something part. I think many of us tend to dwell in the world of “if only” when in fact, the mere act of starting somewhere, or beginning anywhere provides great momentum.

Clever Comebacks
My Mom is the queen of clever comebacks. Regardless of the situation, she always has the perfect jab if needed. Like a fencer (not the kind that sells peoples stuff – though she does like a good flea market) – she has great instinct about what will happen next (when I’d ask how she knew what I didn’t think she could possibly know, she always says a little birdie told her… that’s some birdie). My favourite is a catch all piece of advice that is the “little black dress” of any tricky conversation – and here it is –  I won’t hold that against you.

– Try it next time someone tries to lob a supremely lame excuse at you. I won’t hold that against you.
– Try it next time someone starts bragging about a recent expensive purchase or exotic trip. I won’t hold that against you.
– Try it next time someone genuinely feels bad about what happened. I won’t hold that against you.

It works in most every scenario. It gives responsiblity back to its rightful owner, it’s humbling and oddly compassionate.

So next time someone sends some advice your way, consider taking a bite or two. But if you don’t, I won’t hold that against you. 😉

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5 Responses

  1. […] } in her post the not so perilous side of good advice on her blog The Blahgg Blog. Another good […]

  2. At times not ‘saying anything’ unless it is nice sends a wrong message.

  3. My mother, who was also the editor’s aunt, used to say “It’ll all come out in the wash.” I am still waiting for the wash to come out clean!

    An writing teacher once to told me “The way to begin is to begin.” That has been helpful many times in my life.

    But the best advice I ever got is from a now 90 year old Kelowna friend of my washing mother. She was widowed about 55 years ago and left with two small sons. Her advice? “Don’t panic.”

    Good advice all.

  4. When my old Scottish Grandmother would get tired of hearing some long-winded dufus rant on and on and on, or grow weary or hearing someone else rant with much emotion but without much logic, she’d reply with a heartfelt “Indeed”!

    In her mind, the word suggested that she heard what they were saying, but had also heard enough of their comments that no further ranting or explanation was necessary. In fact, any further ranting would be regarded as unwelcome.

    I could go on and on and righteously try to sharpen your knowledge or to strengthen the point, but I suspect I know what you’d say … “Indeed!”

    And for those with a depraved sense of humour, google and find the text of National Lampoon’s infamous “The Churchill Wit” online. It contains some of his best sharp retorts, albeit with slight editorial alterations.

  5. ALERT! – I haven’t been able to find the original text of the Churchill Wit. Most of the versions I’ve recently come across have been vulgar and fillled with profanities. Please disregard the reference to the article, or find Churchill’s actual retorts – perhaps in a biographic site or other better location. Apologies for the error.

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