“Giving Advice is Attacking Others”
We are exquisitely sensitive to our own inadequacies and just maybe exquisitely sensitive to others pain albeit it often does not seem like it.
It does not seem like “we” or that is others are so sensitive as it is so often the case that we are victims of criticism when we are looking for understanding and support.
This experience so often is born of a sense of insecurity of not knowing the answer. It comes from reliving the trauma of childhood. We were expected at an age too early to know the answer, to come up with a solution, to know what to do. When we are now put in a situation, one we did not ask for, of helping someone solve a problem we get “anxious”, feel shame for not knowing the answer. We were told that “life is tough kid you better get used to it.” It is being exquisitely sensitive to our own shame and humiliation being triggered by old memories. This trumps our ability to really be empathetic with others in the moment. But I also posit we could not be thrown into these “attacks” unless we actually recognized the immediate pain of the person in front of us. But our pain is triggered or memories of having to have the answer interfere and we give what we got and tell the person often the first “suggestion” that come to mind or return the ““life is tough kid you better get used to it.”
This is the same kind of dynamic where the person is always telling you that they will be “right there.” It will be a “few minutes” or an “just an hour” and then they show up three hours later and act as if nothing had happened. Yes they were trying to “please you.” They also are having a knee –jerk reaction to their own shame of not being in control of their actions and time albeit they probably would be in control of it if they were not sabotaged by the memory of a father, mother or brother telling them to constantly “hurry up.”
So in giving “advice” we attack? Simply, so often I have been on the receiving end of “advice” that has been, even well intentioned, but useless.
The attacker needs to “fill the space”, the silence that is causing shame. The advice giver relieves this shame and distress by saying something and pretty much anything. Useless information is shaming and humiliating, of course, to the listener.
I want to be clear that the point is we are driven( always the question is what really motivates us?) by our own shame and distress for whatever reason. We give advice, again, on a knee-jerk basis. One of the most irritating situations is when the advice giver more or less knows he or she is giving “lite” advice, that is the first thing that comes to mind and they are called on it and then say “I know, you’re right.” Well, are we really paying attention or not?
Meaningful advice should be given after knowing a great deal about the others situation. A favorite of mine is that when I have needed help with something the advice is “why don’t you find someone to do this or that to help you out. Get a college kid.” Well, have you ever tried to do that? It is quite an undertaking. Nothing is truer than “good help is hard to find.”
It more and more amazes me how I can be in what I think is a safe and trusting environment and I share some problem and what happens is the worst kind of dressing down sometimes this is very blatant but more often it is a kind of “hit and run” comment.
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090