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Best advice? Keep a wrap on your yap
Scripps Howard News Service


March 22, 2007
Thursday AM

We all love to dole out advice. We feel we've learned a lot during our lifetimes, and others should benefit from our accumulated knowledge. Clearly, our friends and relatives need the help. Just look at the way they're messing up their lives. If they'd only listen to us, things would be better.

We tell ourselves we have only the best of intentions, but darker motives sometimes are at work. By offering advice, we can be saying: "I'm smarter than you. I've got better taste. Only I can tell you how to fix your many, many problems, you schlub."

Not surprisingly, this primal urge to instruct often is not met with enthusiasm by people on the receiving end. Some simply ignore advice. Some resent the very implication that they need advice, which is why, all across this great country of ours, in-laws aren't speaking to one another. Others feel compelled to do the exact opposite of whatever was recommended, which is how women end up marrying members of motorcycle gangs.

Yes, giving advice is fraught with danger. Perhaps the quickest way to lose a friend or alienate a relative is to say, "You know what your problem is?"

Some topics are particularly perilous:


No woman wants to hear that her new love is, in reality, a felonious scoundrel. You might think you're saving her from herself by mentioning it, but it works just the opposite. She will run as fast as she can, right into his hairy, tattooed arms. If it doesn't work out, anything you say will seem like, "I told you so." And if it does last, she and her new husband will hate you... Forever.


It's safe to give others career advice because you're not the one who'll get fired if it goes kerflooey. It's easy to say, "Tell your boss to take this job and shove it." But there should be a rule: If you advise someone to quit a job, you must let that person move in with you and live off your income for a minimum of six months.


Rearing children is hard enough without some self-proclaimed expert telling us that we're doing it wrong. If you don't live under the same roof and see daily just what a pain little Johnny can be, then you should keep your mouth shut. Assume his parents are doing the best they can, and smile brightly as a naked little Johnny smears boysenberry jam on the cat.


If you tell a friend how to eat better, here is what he or she will hear: "You are a fat slob."

We all know we sometimes eat things that aren't healthful. We eat them because they taste good.

I was recently in a Mexican restaurant, and a woman in the next booth complained to everyone who'd listen, including the summoned manager, because the refried beans were made with lard. Excuse me? You ordered refried beans, then had a problem with lard? By the time she was finished proclaiming how unhealthful lard is, I was ready to say: "Can I have her lard? I want extra lard! Could you pump lard directly into my arteries? Muchas gracias."


You can pick your friends, and you can pick your clothes, but you can't pick your friends' clothes.

In summary, only give advice when asked. Even then, use caution in expressing your opinions.

Hey, I'm talking to you. Are you even listening? You know, that's your problem right there.



Redding, Calif., author Steve Brewer's latest book is called "Boost."
Contact him a ABQBrewer(at)

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