Would you rather give or get bad advice and why?

A student asked:

Would you rather give or get bad advice and why?

Here’s my thoughts on the matter:

I find this question very interesting because the reality is, it’s hard to evaluate whether the advice is good or bad until you’ve been in a situation where you can apply that advice, or actually see the advice backfire before your eyes – provided, of course, the advice is logical and has merit for belief, i.e. it’s not just based on a single event as one data point cannot tell you anything conclusive (Disclaimer: Here, I’m talking specifically about life advice. Health advice is something that you can verify by checking with experts.).

The reason why an advice sounds “bad” is usually because it doesn’t sit well with us. Sometimes we want to hear something assuring, but the advice is anything but assuring. Or sometimes the advice is to do something that we don’t want to do (or afraid to do). I do think we need a great deal of self-reflection in order to assess why we think an advice is “bad” before dismissing it.

I will say this: I have since grown very cautious of advice that’s repeated by a lot of people. It’s a telling trait that these kinds of advice had not been tested in actual situations, and are in fact just things people say as if they are the right things to say. When I was a student, I used to take to heart many of these advice, much to my own personal detriment.

So if I do give advice, it is advice that came from my own personal experience (usually the most profound ones come from my own personal failings or struggles), or one that I arrived at from observing the successes and failures of the people around me.

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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