Monday, April 25, 2011

A Word on Advice

Recently I've been asked by several people for advice, help, or suggestions. Times are tough, which means that people are faced with tough situations that are far from easy to resolve. Like many people, my first reaction is to try to help wherever I can (and be honored to have been consulted), but I've come to the realization that what these people are looking for is not advice. Understandably, they want to be told what they want to hear.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I am not talking about any one particular person that I've spoken to in the last few weeks. This is something that has recurred many, many times and this post is about how I've decided to finally handle these situations. The status quo is broke, so I have to ask myself, "What is the solution?"

The status quo goes like this: Someone will call, email, or text me asking me for advice. Because I am not the type to blow smoke, I state what I believe is the honest truth in an attempt to genuinely help said person. Then, said person will usually either become angry or silent. Then I stress, worry, and dwell on it, because my intention all along was to be helpful, but I am left feeling like I failed them.

What went wrong? They asked for advice. I gave it as best I could. What else is there?

What I've come to realize the hard way is that generally, people asking for advice don't want the truth. They want someone to validate their heart's desire. This is not a unique phenomenon. I can site many specific instances where I have done this very thing myself.

For example, one time I posted on a forum asking for any tips on how to fit a horse for halter less expensively. I was promptly lectured that I had no business trying to fit and show a horse if I didn't have the money to do so, that I should cut back on the number of horses I had and then I'd have the money to show. Of course my first reaction was to be hurt and angry. How dare this person reply in this manner! It was none of their business what I did with my horses or how many I had! Why in the world would someone be so hateful and hurtful when all I wanted to do was ask a simple question?

Well, as they say, the truth hurts. That person, while the candor of their reply cut me to the core, was, as I now know, absolutely correct. I had almost TWENTY horses at the time, less facilities and less available income than I have now (even being unemployed). I was truly in over my head, and that person was being helpful than most in telling me so, but of course that wasn't what I thought was happening. I thought a perfect stranger was being hurtful to me, just for sport. The only problem with their reply is that it wasn't what I wanted to hear. How ridiculous my actions now seem....

There have been so many times in my life where I thought if I lost something, my world would end. If I sold this horse, or if I gave up on this goal, or if I left a place, my whole world would come crashing down. It's taken losing everything I loved all at once twice to show me that this is not the case. By the time I had to euthanize Eddie last year, I had learned that while I will miss him the rest of my days, my life will continue on without him. And it will be (and has been) a fine life at that.

Sometimes it is so difficult, so hard, so scary to let go. I've been thinking about this quite a bit today as these dilemmas that I was consulted on have really been stressing me out. Then I had to ask myself "Why?" I've stopped breeding horses for this very reason (so to cut down on the amount of times I had to make these type of tough choices) and yet I'm letting other people's decisions stress me. Seems a bit silly.

So, in an effort to lead by example and encourage my friends to "walk away," if that is indeed the right choice for them, I am officially walking away from my pseudo-ordained responsibilities as advice-giver. I will no longer help anyone sell their horse or give any advice regarding what to do with any particular horse. The only exception is if someone needs to place their horse, meaning give it away (for free) to a good home. So many times I am told a horse absolutely must find a home, and then find out that the person has priced them with their heart rather than their head. I cannot help in those situations. I cannot help someone find the perfect horse, or change the horse they have into the perfect horse, because there is no such thing as a perfect horse. I cannot lessen the pain of having to say goodbye to a cherished horse. Believe me, I have done it more times than I think my heart can handle and if I had found a way to lessen my grief, I would have shared the information long ago.

I wish I was able to find a magic wand and make everyone's troubles go away. I sincerely do, because I would include mine! But, until that day comes, I think the best advice I can give is only to myself. For the sake of my own well-being, and the well-being of my friendships, I am "walking away" from giving advice.

Fittingly, there is an article published today on this very topic: How to Walk Away When it's Not Working. Please read it, even if you're smart enough to have never asked me for advice. Unlike me, it is written by someone fully qualified to give advice in these types of tough situations.

Life is hard and for those of us who are lucky enough to live our passion, life can be even harder. The higher our soul soars, the farther we have to fall. The good news is the fall cannot kill us. We are stronger than that. We are resilient. We are horsepeople.



Grey Horse Matters said...

Good post. And you are absolutely right, people seeking advice usually don't want the truth but want to hear validation for what they are thinking/doing. It's not worth stressing over.

Annette said...

You hit the nail on the head with that one. I avoid giving advice - my motto is to give encouragement. That seems to be more in line with what people are looking for. Good post.

TeresaA said...

well said! I have been in the exact same boat and wondering why people are angry at me for giving what they asked for. I try to avoid it now as much as possible.

Blackfeatherfarm said...

Spot on....great post.