So Many Grains of Salt

“Take their advice with a grain of salt…”

“Take this with a grain of salt, but…”

So. Many. Grains. Of. Salt. Who are we supposed to listen to any more? Who is equipped to give us character-critiquing advice that will grow into a future investment of character enhancement when we follow it?

According to the internet: Everybody! Even if you avoid reading comments, getting into social media arguments, and just plain mind your own business, the most current trend on the internet should be titled, “You’re doing it wrong and how to do it better.” Sometimes, it’s more like, “You’re doing it wrong and I do it better.” It comes in the form of ads. It comes on well-intentioned Medium articles. It comes without packages, boxes, or bags…(sorry Dr. Seuss).

But, what if you don’t want to hack your life, you just want to live it? What if you’re not doing it wrong but you want to make sure you don’t filter out everyone’s two cents

My #3 reason to listen to advice: That person is paying me or relying on me for my work. For real. If I need to work on my work ethic, if it comes from my boss, I’ll take it into consideration. Bonus points if their feedback is constructive and somewhat guides me into performing better. If a client has true concerns regaring my attentiveness or work, I’ll take it into consideration. Bonus points if they recognize the difference between working miracles and fixing the world and providing actual, constructive pointers, such as, “You seem a little distracted today, can you please focus on what I’m trying to tell you?” to which I’d answer, “Thank you. I’ll take more care in making sure you feel heard.”

My #2 reason to listen to advice: That person is especially kind or interesting. I used to joke that “nice” isn’t a personality. But, I’ve learned that often people who seem boring at first are just incredibly reserved and, they can also be incredibly kind. Hanging out with kind people and asking them advice on how to be kinder is an incredible experience. Same for listening interesting people: if their writing or artwork or science work or legal writing or personal philosophy knocks your socks off, then YES YES YES take their advice! If the person addressing your character is just another person in charge who’s rude or arrogant or you feel like they should deserve respect because they’ve “done a lot of things…” then maybe that advice isn’t worth listening to. After all, why would you want to listen to someone who’s mean or doesn’t listen to what you have to say because they think they’re more qualified to be a human than you? After all, would you take the advice of 100% of the presidents of the US? (Rhetorical question, really, but…)

My #1 reason to listen to advice: They’re my person. Note: If the human(s) in your life are constantly picking on you and your actions and you’re worried that you’re not yourself anymore, this is not for you. If you’re in an overbearing relationship, please consider talking to someone confidentially about your options.

But for those of us pretty sure we’re with our soulmates: You know the rules. Don’t change your core interests for your partner, don’t let them erase your vibrancy… but.. allow yourself to grow together. If they’re concerned about your drinking or constant lateness to work or if they tell you that you overshare when you’re hanging out with mutual friends, take it into consideration. The same way you’d hope that if you said, “Hey, I notice that when people ask us how we’re doing, you answer and then rush into the conversation before I get to answer, too,” you’d hope they’d say, “Wow, I’m sorry, I’ll try not to do that anymore,” and then… they change their behavior. That’s what having a person is all about. It’s a two-way street. I take the advice because I know they have my best interests in mind, and because…love.

Seriously, though, that’s it. If someone who’s constantly rude tells you you’re [insert insult here], or acts superior because they have more letters after their name than you do, you have permission to ignore it. If you’re reading an article and they’re sure you’re doing it wrong because they have all the answers… Maybe they do, but are they insulting you, the reader, while they profess their profound knowledge of the meaning of life? Gross. Walk away!

Side note: I intentionally left out family members. No one comes from the same kind of home, so you’ll have to use your salt shaker there.