Bitter Medicine: The Paradox of Painful Advice

The essence of counsel is captured within the proverb, “Good medicine tastes bitter”.

There are two primary elements to consider when it comes to advice.

[1] To what degree is it valid and useful?

How accurate is the advice?

How genuine is the advice?

Does it teach me about something that I was previously unaware of?

Does it carry insight?

[2] How eloquently is it presented?

Attitude – Is it sarcastic? Does it hold respect for the other person?

Tone of Voice – Calm and composed, or angry?

Manner of Speaking – Is it meant to be hurtful? Is it encouraging?

When I’m on the receiving end of advice I try to focus on [1] and be thankful to those that respect [2]. For example, when I posted to an online community, I received the following responses.

This stuff is common knowledge at the team leader level..

This is just promoting your blog.. You sound like you’re still 18.

These same words could be rephrased in a completely different manner.

This subject is rather basic and common. I think you could post something a little more insightful.

I want to focus on just the content of the post. Maybe just putting the blog link in bold and keeping introductions short and simple would allow people to focus on the content of the post more.

Without a doubt, implementing both [1] and [2] would be ideal, but that may be asking for too much. 

It’s important to identify what kind of individual is giving me advice before listening to that advice.

Individuals that are skilled at [1] are helpful when I need advice. Individuals that are skilled at [2] are helpful when I need encouragement. But when these roles and needs are switched up, things get disorderly and jumbled.

I strive to meet both criteria to the fullest extent possible when I speak. I firmly believe that [2] is just as important as [1]. What use is there for the wisest advice if it dampens the receiver’s motivation and discourages them? Likewise, there is no correct answer. It’s important for everyone to find their golden point.

I am thankful for whatever advice I receive because that person is investing their precious time and energy in me.

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