Some advice about advice

Grace under pressure button

My son and his wife are expecting their first child. (And I’m trying to wrap my poor head around being a grandmother—but I digress.) They are awash in advice about EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING. And they are confused. Maddeningly, head swirling with conflicting opinions, ready to *headesk* confused.

So my dear son turned to me and asked how to sort through all the advice they were getting. Dear child knows me and knows I’ll start with my standard answer: It depends—but that’s another blog post.

Once we got past that part and teased out what he was really asking—how to find good advice—we boiled down the answer to two basic principles:

  1. The people who are most likely to dump advice at your feet are usually the ones who know the least.
  2. Before you take advice, look at the fruit.

I know, the first line sounds awfully cynical, and I grant I’ve been called that from time to time. But bear with me, there’s actual, scientific support for it.

Scientific? Yeah, really.

Seems like the less you know, the more you think you know. Just ask Wikipedia:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is.  

All wiki jokes aside, sound science supports this phenomenon. I see it all the time.

All the freaking time. Makes me nuts.

confusedMy sister, a tax accountant, spends a great deal of her working hours fixing the mess people create for themselves because they ‘know how to do their taxes’ and believe that their medical degree, their law degree, their whatever degree makes them qualified to do their complicated taxes. Only to find out the IRS disagrees.

One day back when I was still teaching university, I had a student stand up in class and tell me that he didn’t agree with something I was teaching. Ok, fine, you disagree. But your opinion doesn’t negate the hundreds of scientific studies that pretty clearly demonstrated the principle to be sound. He was certain though, his opinion, based on common sense was every bit as valid as research data.

I could go on and on. But I won’t.

All that to say, though, those who are convinced they know the most, (and tend to be loudest about it) are frequently those who really know the least of all. But it’s probably not a good idea to try and tell them that—so I advised my son. Just smile and nod and thank them for their advice, then promptly forget it.

Finding someone worth listening to takes a little more effort. One has to go digging for fruit.

What kind of fruit? Apples? Oranges? Grapes? Loquats?   (My son’s sense of humor, blame the husband…)

No, I’m being all English major-y, now, bear with me a second.

I told my son, if you want to know where to find good advice about child rearing, go find someone who has kids you really like and get to know them. They are the ones you want to take out for coffee and just listen to what they have to say.

More often than not, those kinds of people are not quick to dispense all-purpose advice because they know that one size rarely fits all. They also realize good results aren’t simple to come by and most people really don’t want to hear what it takes to get there. So they hold their cards close to the chest. But they have ideas, experience and principles that are worth their weight in Starbuck’s coffee beans.

It takes work, time and patience to establish those sorts of relationships. But it’s been the surest way I’ve found to find good solid advice.

What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 comments

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  1. And you ended up giving him the best advice of all. Way to go Mom!

    I ran into this type of situation with my chronic illness before it was diagnosed. Hundreds of people, friends and strangers, alike, had an opinion- about everything. I was like your son and overwhelmed (okay and terrified that I was dying of lots of diseases).
    But you’re right about the ones who mostly like know best are the last to share. I know people who quietly live with an illness and they don’t willingly push their opinions.
    Oh, and incidentally, I went to mom for advice on the opinions, too. haha!

    1. Thanks, Sophia. I have a number of friends with serious health challenges and they say the same thing. I kinda love that you went to your mom for advice on the advice too!

    • Beverlee on May 25, 2016 at 8:47 am
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    Congrats! And your advice was excellent. One thing I discovered with my kids is that they never read the books about babies / children, and consequently did their own thing with little regard to the experts. Just as each adult is unique, so is each child. You son and his wife will work out what works for THEIR baby, and from the sounds of things, they’ll do absolutely fine.

    1. Thanks, Beverlee. I think they will, too, especially if they can manage not to freak out over all the contradictory advice they have gotten and will continue to get. Having a baby with you seems to be an open invitation for everyone with an opinion to give you advice. LOL

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