Saturday, March 14, 2009

Giving great advice

I reckon I'm really really good at giving advice.

If something isn't going very well for someone, I really think I know what will turn their negative into a positive, that will move them forward constructively - that will make them see the light at the end of an challenging, yet ultimately personality-building tunnel.

I just feel I'm the kind of person who does this really well.

But I've noticed that, more and more, I'm really not that good at talking myself into following advice I would give myself if I was, well, someone for whom things were not going well.

If you're not following me (and who could blame you), let me give you an example: Say you found out you had some illness. You were a bit down about it, so I'd probably say lots of positive things about the high likelihood of a fantastic return to normality and what a person you would grow into. But what I'm now saying is, I realise that the only reason I can say this, is because I'm not you, and you're not me.

On a personal level, I recently found out I had something wrong with me. There is a small chance it could kill me, but I caught it, am treating it, and it isn't likely to now. I would have said to anyone in my position: "Don't read horror stories on the internet. Most of it is disinformation, from worst-case-scenarios, unscientific, or simply really unlucky people using the internet cathartically. It's there to scaremonger."

But, of course, I did check the internet. And I didn't listen to me, when I tried to have a stern conversation with myself to tell me what I was doing was wrong.

So, on an individual level, emotions can take over. But what about in business? Ever noticed how often we refer to the I'm not you, and you're not me principle?

I wonder how many readers who work in PR, advertising or marketing, when they go to work, advise their clients on something that's not going well. I bet you, like me, promote some kind of best practice initiative, explain why it will benefit said client, and why the investment is oh-so-very important. But, critically, when we give this advice, it's with the facial-capillary-widening knowledge that the business we work for, doesn't do the precise thing we advise for our client. I know I'm as guilty as anyone.

It's the same as the guys that sell books or services on how to make a killing in the stock market. Since I assume they listen to their own advice, they must all be ravenously rich, I must thank them, really, for sparing some time to so magnanimously share their secrets.

I bet they never let emotions get in the way of good judgement. I bet they always listened to their own advice. I bet they wouldn't get caught jumping on the internet to check out some scare stories.

Or really, are emotions more at play here than anywhere else?

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