While making breakfast I cracked a smile as it occurred to me that some people will find any excuse not to take advice or criticism. That’s not to say everyone, of course, as there are plenty of open-minded folks who take advice well. For others, both in my experience of trying to give advice and observing others try, it seems an amusing “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario.

“How would you know?”

The easiest dodge is when the speaker has not directly shared the experience with the recipient. A simple example is critiquing someone’s art when you’re not an artist, drawing the often inevitable “Well let’s see you do better.” It’s valid in some cases, but is mostly silly because you don’t need to be able to recreate it yourself to have a valid opinion. I don’t have to be an architect to identify a stupid looking house, for example, just as I don’t need to be a film director to realize a movie sucks and some of the reasons why.

My favorite is seeing a parent with kids who are clearly out of control, commenting about it, and being told “Talk to me when you’ve had kids of your own.” My not having kids doesn’t stop yours from being hellions. Maybe I don’t know the best way to deal with that problem having never had to, but it doesn’t take much to realize something has to be done. And the fact that plenty of people have decent kids means you can do better.

“Look who’s talking!”

The other side of the advice dodge is the shared experience. If the speaker has actually been in the same position as the recipient, an easy cop-out seems to be the hypocrisy card.  “You did the same crap, so don’t talk to me,” the recipient might say. This person probably knows only too well what they’re talking about, as they’ve either lived it and succeeded or lived it and were destroyed by it. In this hypothetical, the speaker isn’t just a valid resource; they might be the best you have.

From tunnel vision to openness

I’m sure the list could go on and on with ways we wriggle out of making changes and taking advice. There’s nothing anyone else can do for a person who is determined to ignore feedback, determined to just keep on keeping on. I’ve been very stubborn myself, almost insisting on certain actions in principle to opposition, and the best thing I ever did was open myself. Stubbornness is only useful in defense of an ideal; being stubborn for the sake of status quo is a path that leads nowhere.

If life has taught me anything it’s that a person’s wisdom can surprise you. Never assume a difference in age, experience, circumstance, income, etc. means there’s no way someone can relate to you or simply have considered an angle you didn’t on a subject. Listen to the advice. If it’s junk, treat it as such. But be open to perspective, to having your mind changed, to that “aha!” moment you never considered.