December 21 – The gentle snowflakes of advice, versus the hammer approach

December 21. “Advice is like snow – the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Have you ever been hit over the head with advice? I am sure you have, because we all have from time to time. You know what I’m talking about. That person who tells you how wrong you are doing something, and does it so often that you cringe at the thought of making a mistake around them. Or worse, you don’t make a mistake, but they still know a better way.

I know what that person is like, because I have been that person at times. I am an opinionated person, and I have thoughts on how to do things in life. Some of those thoughts work out really well for me. Some even end up working out well for others. The problem is that too often in the past I have used a hammer to get the point home. And, well, the point doesn’t really get home.

Thankfully I have learned the valuable lesson of this quote. I’ve learned that it is far better to be like gentle snowfall when giving advice. A gentle idea planted in someone’s head always works better than being the overbearing idiot I’ve been known to be in the past.

That isn’t to say that I don’t still make mistakes, because I do. Just today I had one of those moments. My wife and I went to work out this morning. When we arrived at the gym she had me pop the trunk so she could stash her purse and a couple of other items in there. I said she’d be better off leaving the purse under the seat, it would still be out of sight, but easier for her to remember where it was. Later we were going somewhere else and she had a momentary panic to remember where her purse was. I told her it was in the trunk. If I had stopped there, I would have been doing a valuable service, helping someone remember an item forgotten. But no, not me. I had to add in “that’s why I told you it was a bad idea to put it back there.” My wife then reminded me how much she LOVES being told “I told you so”. Not my shining moment.

I know for myself that the advice I have valued most in life came to me in small helpings, and was fed to me in a gentle manner. When I have had the advice forced into me with a fire hose, I have resisted and even resented the advisor. Sometimes that fire hose advice was right, but it didn’t matter because the message was lost.

Today my reflection is on how I can better remember the lesson of this quote, and remember that being gentle is always superior when trying to be persuasive.

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