Monday, January 12, 2015

Advising - inadvisable?

This business of advising is so dangerous. There you go, happily mouthing off wisdom and then, suddenly, you discover that you have dug a pit for yourself and are expected to fill it with your body. It can really become a grave (pun intended) matter sometimes.

Now, before YOU start advising ME about it, let me tell you that I do know about how the aura of an adviser affects people. I know how my imminent presence suddenly reminds people of the advice to take physical exercise - with such immediacy that they start sprinting out just as I am coming in. There are those others, who are reminded of the value of persistence and crawl under beds with the determination to not come out till they have found that coin which they lost six months ago. As for those people struck by the need for cleanliness so strongly that they enter wardrobes to check for cobwebs, I have little to say except that I find it difficult to see how they locate the cobwebs after cutting out all the light when they close the doors. Of course, more often than not, I find that a room, supposedly stuffed with people to the rafters, is miraculously empty when I make my entrance.

This is not the danger I speak of, of course. Helping people remember and act upon past advice is not danger, is it? The danger of advising was brought home to me early in life, when I was doing my engineering.

I was home on my holidays and the sump motor, which pumped up the water to the overhead tank, was on the blink (No submersible pumps then - so centrifugal pumps did get vapor-locked). I took one knowledgeable look at it and said, "It is air-locked. The pump needs to be primed, that is all", and looked around for applause.

"Do it then!"

Huh! It had never struck me that people could be as ignorant as to expect someone giving advice to act on it as well. Me? Take a spanner (or whatever) in hand, open up the pump, pour water in till all the air is driven off, and get it working again? The chap, who hits his thumb nine times out of ten when trying to drive a nail into a wall (and hits the wall the tenth time? How did you guess?)? Thankfully for me, I have a brother, who is never happier unless he has some tool in hand and is opening up something or the other to see what makes it tick. He had the pump ticking in no time and I was saved the trouble of totally mangling the pump and calling in a plumber.

Giving advice is like an itch. The doctor may tell you not to scratch but you will find that your nails are going scratch-scratch-scratch, without your conscious knowledge. About the only thing I learned from that episode was that, since people just do not seem to understand that you give advice only for others to act upon, I should refrain from giving advice involving any physical action.

That did not eradicate all the dangers of advising, though. As usual, I had to have my nose rubbed in it before I understood.

"My boss is a perfect pain, yaar! Every time I interact with him, it always ends up in a quarrel", said a friend.
"You know just need to control your temper better. If you stop talking to him as though he is a retarded six year old..."
"Yeah! We all know how well you get along with yours. Your boss is likely to host a party the day he gets rid of you."

See what I mean? The issue was about my friend and his boss, so where did my boss' partying ways come into the picture? I was just telling the guy how to get along better with HIS boss - what does it matter how I got along with mine? After all, I KNEW that my boss REALLY was akin to a retarded six year old!

This whole business of giving advice is all muddled up. I cannot even say things like the food needs more salt before someone proffers me an invitation to cook the next time, and someone else chimes in with how the street dogs avoided my street like the plague, after having feasted on the last meal that I cooked - and they threw out. Come on! Do I need to know how to cook in order to know whether what I am eating is well-cooked?

On the other hand, though, when others pop in with advice and I retaliate with their inability to do that thing, I get turned off derisively with "Yeah! By your argument, no-one can ever talk of death, since he would not have died himself". Being half a step behind in every argument is such a bane, especially when you have an itch to advise.

Which is why it makes me so happy that I am not a father. From what I have seen, parenthood makes you itch to advise your children to avoid the mistakes that you committed yourself. Teens can be very sarcastic about even the things that you cannot do as well as you ask them to do. I shudder to think of what they would say when you solemnly advise them to do the opposite of what you did!

Looks to me like advising is certainly inadvisable for me. Henceforth, I should stop doing it.

AND, I advise you to do the same. Ouch! There I go again!


  1. Highly enjoyable read! And full of very good advice too :) Another key lesson you share here is - experience is always the best teacher, both for advisers as well as the advisees (or is it 'advised'?).

    1. Thanks Beloo! True that and also true that the advice is judged by the success of the adviser :)

  2. I need a little bit of the humor tonic that you seem to have been on since forever. Please advise :D

    As always, simply loved your post.


  3. hahaha I have nothing to say lest it be construed as advice. :)

  4. Suresh,a sher(urdu couplet) for you
    Naseha mat de nasihat,jee mera ghabraye hai;
    Main sanjhun,usko dushman,jo mujhe samjhaye hai.
    I think you will get the meaning-naseha is adviser and nasihat is advice.

    Btw what do i do with my blog--it is filled to the rafters with advice,advice,and more advice?
    Please advise.

    1. I got the sher,Indu! Btw, general advice is not dangerous..any reader assumes that it is for someone else :) It is only when advice is targeted to one person that the danger arises :)

  5. Hahahaha... Loved reading it!!

    And hey, I just did a post on the same topic!! Wise people think alike, huh?

  6. Are you on another one of your trips?

  7. Hahah ! i had a hearty laugh ! I could relate to whatever you hav written there !

  8. I think the trick to advice is to charge for it.You charge and it becomes valuable. So free advice = waste = you are saddled with the task of implementing it / justifying your authority on it :)

    1. Been there, done that, Ash! Among the many things I did in life, I was a freelance consultant for two years charging hefty sums for doling out advice :)

  9. Ha Ha - As someone said about teachers - Those who can, do, those who can't, teach

    1. AND we assess the value of the teaching by whether the teacher can do :)