That last one... great advice, that's what we want... right? Someone to guide us through life's pitfalls, warn us of bad decisions, deter us from harm? Eh, I don't know. At the ripe old age of twenty mumble mumble, I've learned that usually your closest friends and family are best equipped to see your situation with a clear mind, with the only bias being concern for your welfare. And yet, I, along with many others, have made some horrific decisions, even with my crew holding huge signs pointing me in the opposite direction. Why?
When someone comes to you with a problem, and implicitly or directly asks for your take/opinion/suggestion, they usually don't want it. They really just want you to agree with the decision they've already made (or pretended to make) and to help them justify the path they're taking with statements like, "Yeah.. it's worth a try" or "You only live once."
How can you tell when people want real advice or simply a cosign on a bad loan? A few signs that someone wants the latter are below:
1) The problem/decision has a clear cut answer. We all have that friend who's dating someone who treats them like Hummers treat the Earth's environment. They come to us claiming to be "fed up" or "over it" or worse... confused about what to do.
Friend: Girl, do you know he had the nerve to borrow money to take some other chick to the movies??!? What should I do?
You: Sounds like he's a total dirtbag.
Friend: I don't know, maybe this is a test to see if I'm really down for him... I mean, she ain't even cute, so I know he really wants me. Yeah, that's what it is. I don't want to fail this test.
You: Sounds like you'd fail an IQ Test right about now.
Friend: Girl, you always hating on me and my man. I don't even know why I asked you.
2) You've been asked about this problem/decision several times before. When you see the number on the caller ID, you already know what the conversation is going to be about.
Friend: Dog, you are never going to believe what I'm about to tell you.
You: Wait, I bet we're going to talk about your roommate borrowing some money and not paying you back.
Friend: Yoooooo... how'd you know?!?! He said he was going to pay me yesterday, but he still hasn't... and I know that dude just bought an iPad. WTF?!?
You: Yeah, you should stop probably stop loaning him money.
Friend: I'm so serious this time, never again.
*Wait 3 weeks, then repeat above conversation, interchanging ipad with other items that this friend continues to buy with borrowed money*
3) The Advice Seeker makes excuses about the poor decision they are about to make before you can even tell them it's a poor decision.
Friend: So, I was thinking I'm just going to move to Atlanta and get serious about this whole modeling thing.
Friend's Mom: What about--
Friend: I know I don't really have any money saved up, but I figure with my talent I'll make some. I can charge everything till I do.
Friend's Mom: Well, what about--
Friend: I know, I know, I don't know anyone in Atlanta, that I have no modeling experience, and that I'm 5'2", but that doesn't mean I can't follow my dream, Mom.
4) The Advice Seeker makes references to vague cliches, Bible verses, and statements often found in chain emails.
You: Are you sure it's a good idea to give yourself a mohawk?
Cousin: What will be will be.
You: Are you sure you want to eat that entire bin of ice cream?
Friend: These aren't real calories. We're in a dream within a dream. #inception
5) The Advice Seeker references a "gut feeling" that defies all logic, including their own. FYI: Menstrual cramps, dire hunger, desperation, food poisoning and especially lust are often misconstrued as a "gut feeling."
6) The advice seeker becomes defensive when you point out significant flaws in their judgment. Nothing says, "I just want you to agree with me" like "You're hating on me... you're just jealous... You don't know how this feels." But chances are, if they're coming to you, it's because they trust you and know you're level-headed. (Unless you have become their official cosigner of all their bad decisions, and they can trust you to just agree.) So they know you're not really hating on their outdated gauchos. You just want her to stop wearing them. Because they make her look pitiful. But they say these things because they can't think of anything else and it makes them feel better.
What are some other signs that your advice is not really wanted or falling on deaf ears?
*Disclaimer: I have made, and continue to make, horrible decisions despite my friends' best efforts. That's probably why I recognize all these signs so well.