Good Advice is Difficult to Define

Good Advice is Difficult to Define

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Good Advice is Difficult to Define


Advice is hollow, if you don’t know the history of the problem, or the amount of discomfort it is causing. When an expert relays advice or information they will not know the history or comfort level of their reader and will tend to try to generalize or speak to every possible situation. When the class considered the expert’s advice on contractions it was impossible for these authors to speak to their concerns and individual situations. I have very little experience in dispensing advice through writing to a large audience. My experience as an adviser has been restricted to verbal advice usually given one on one and face to face. When I am receiving advice this is also how I am most comfortable.

I am also most comfortable giving advice about subjects that I have had formal training in. For example, I am comfortable giving advice about car mechanics, and sobriety. The former I have had over twenty years of training in and the later I had a year of formal and on the job training in a detox unit. I also have the life experience of being an alcoholic, but was not as comfortable about giving advice on this subject, until I had the formal training.

I believe in order to give advice or hear advice, the adviser’s opinions or bias on the subject should be shared with the advisee up front. I have found this saves time for both of them because as in the case of my classmate who raced snowmobiles and ignored his parent’s advice, if you are not ready for or do not need information, it is seldom of benefit. I think in the case of the written advice examined in class, it was easier for the class to dismiss much of their expertise, because we were evaluating their opinions rather than being required to use their expertise by our professor. If the class had needed this information to receive a passing grade the reaction may have been different.

This brings me to my next point, which is, the advisor is more effective when they understand what the advisee needs the advice for, and what their level of understanding is on the subject. If the advisee has some knowledge of the subject it is not helpful to talk down to them, but if they have little knowledge of the subject it is not helpful to delve into an in-depth discussion of every detail, using terms they don’t understand.

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Understanding the purpose for seeking advice seems to me to be critical for both, or the advice is useless. In the case of written advice, it seems to me that the advisee needs to be responsible for finding the material that best suits his needs. If as a mechanic, I need to find car specifications, it’s up to me to select the proper manual. It’s not the author’s responsibility. It is the author’s responsibility to let me know what information I may find in his manual, and at what level it is written.

It is obvious to me that a good writer communicates his ideas through written language. His choice of language is the key to successful communication. Some of our class objected to an author’s use of absolutes in his written advice on contractions, Specifically the author that included a “caution” not to use contractions in professional writing. This made the author seem as if he was issuing an order rather than giving advice. His authoritarian tone had the effect of making his readers angry rather than satisfied about his advice. In this case the language did not work and the advice was rejected because of the language used. The connection between good advice and good writing in my eyes is the writer’s ability to use vocabulary and style to get his message across to his readers. However, I am not sure if all well written advice should be considered “good advice.” Many good authors through out history have abused their gift for written language to give some very bad or misleading advice. For example, Adolph Hitler was a master of language and communication, and many people followed his advice, though it was not particularly “good advice.”
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