Before I attended Byron Katie’s The School for the Work last month, if someone had asked me this question, I probably would have responded with a knee-jerk “yes.”
After all, it’s the polite thing to say.
Even if someone had decided to hand over some unsolicited advice, I probably would have gamely tried it on for size, wriggling and scrunching in whatever way I could to reassure them that their words were both welcome and helpful.
Today, I have a slightly different perspective.
Have you ever stopped to really notice just how often you are handed advice you did not ask for, and do not want, which is not helpful (or often even relevant)?
After attending Byron Katie’s School, I began to notice.
In the School, we were taught how to listen.
I mean really LISTEN.
We were given permission to tune out our own mind’s dialogue, noticing as we did so all the reasons why we thought what we had to share was more important than what the speaker wanted to share with us.
We were given permission to focus on the speaker, looking into their eyes, observing their unspoken language as well as imbibing their spoken words.
It was so incredibly moving.
After attending Katie’s School, I realized just how much I dislike giving advice, and just how much I dislike receiving it (unless I have directly asked for it, which becomes obvious to the listener because I have uttered the words “What do you think?” and am now silently awaiting their response).
It just doesn’t feel respectful – to hand out advice like free pain pills, expecting that my prescription for happiness is going to work for everyone else too.
It also feels rather arrogant. Presumptuous. And frankly unkind.
I enjoyed so much being able to simply speak out the words I wanted to say, uninterrupted, and uninhibited by the knowledge that most likely I would barely complete my last few words before the listener would leap in to exercise their right to respond….and advise.
I equally as much enjoyed simply being able to listen, without the building inner pressure of the repetitive thought, “What am I supposed to say in response?”
Nothing. Unless they ask me to respond.
Katie understands something about human connection that I am just beginning to wake up to.
We don’t have to “do” much of anything at all to connect.
Except to show up. And to listen.
Today’s Takeaway: Where in your life do you catch yourself jumping in to give advice before it has been requested? Where do you find you are shut down or stifled by a continual stream of unsolicited advice when all you really needed was for someone to listen? Just begin to pay attention to these moments. Experiment. Pause before responding – and ask “would you like to hear my insights about what you just shared?” See how it feels. See if it changes the closeness you feel to others, and vice versa.