Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On Dishing Out Advice



Remember when I reviewed Anne Lamott's Some Assembly Required? I just might have forgotten to mention how much I  identified with Lamott's struggle not to give her 20-year-old son and his girlfriend (who also happened to be new parents) unsolicited advice.  You see, I suffer from something we'll refer to as "older sibling syndrome."

I have wonderful, lovely, smart, funny (etc, etc.) brother who is sixteen months younger than I. But pretty much as soon as he was born, I took on the unofficial role of being his second mother. Seriously, when I was little, the thing I got in trouble for most consistently was bossing him around. Oops . . .

As we've grown older, I've transitioned from being Miss Bossypants to the unsolicited adviser. I'd say I try to keep my opinions to myself, but we all know opinions spew out of me like a waterfall. And ever since our visit to MI last month to catch up with brother and girlfriend, I've been damn near brimming with great advice for him.

Oh, that need to advise . . . All of those great ideas that literally churn through my mind about how other people could live their lives more happily and efficiently and be more fiscally secure. Oh, all those decisions I wouldn't have made "if I was them." 

I was talking to my friend Sarah yesterday, who also has a younger brother.

"I don't know why they don't take our awesome advice," I complained. "I mean, look how together our lives are."

[insert snorts and ROFLing here]

Why do older sisters feel so drawn to dispensing largely unwanted advice? Because we really want to help? Or because we want to be right?

I suspect a mixture of both of the reasons stated above lead us to dispense vats of unsolicited advice. Certainly we older sisters are motivated by a rather smug feeling that we know best. (After all, I've been on Earth a whole 16 months longer than my sibling.) But we also feel like when we dispense our advice we're strapping the equivalent of a bike helmet on our siblings.Yet I suspect if you asked your siblings they'd say we're overbearing and trying to swaddle them in a big ol' bubble.

 No one likes unsolicited advice. I've certainly received enough of it to know how unpleasant being on the receiving end of it can be. But despite that little voice that tells me to let others figure it out on their own, I'm still learning to bite my tongue.

Do you suffer from older sibling syndrome? Have you been on the butt end of older sibling syndrome?

 

7 comments:

  1. I am not an advice giver and I have to say, I really, really do not take kindly to unsolicited advice. I trust that we are all adults and can make our own decisions, good and bad. I think it is wonderful that you recognize that you do this. Good luck in breaking the habit! :-))

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  2. GUILTY. VERY VERY GUILTY. I have 2 younger sisters (3 1/2 years younger & 9 years younger) Poor girls. especially the youngest. I just have zero self control, and really I DO know better! ;)

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  3. I am the seventh child of eight. I have five older sisters, one older brother and one younger sister. When it comes to advice my oldest sister is the worse. She thinks she knows it all. I usually try to take it with a grain of salt because I like to do things under my own ambition. However, when you put us all together, there's usually something that is said that will make one of us upset. Somehow we still manage to love each other.

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  4. I am the seventh child of eight. I have five older sisters, one older brother and one younger sister. When it comes to advice my oldest sister is the worse. She thinks she knows it all. I usually try to take it with a grain of salt because I like to do things under my own ambition. However, when you put us all together, there's usually something that is said that will make one of us upset. Somehow we still manage to love each other.

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  5. I am the youngest of four but luckily they almost never give me unsolicited advice! I'm lucky I guess!

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  6. As the oldest sister to four younger siblings, I definitely suffer from older sibling syndrome! As we've all gotten older I've gotten so much better with not sharing my wisdom with them but somedays I just want to make all their decisions!

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