Take Your Own Advice

This morning, on two back-to-back sessions with clients, I found myself in violation of advice I was literally giving right then.

In the first, as we were wrapping up and chatting about a few relevant things, I happened to mention a small detail about my life that I found less than satisfactory. My client grinned and said “You know, a wise man once said to me that you get to decide what world you live in, and you have the power to change anything you don’t like.” (Me. The “wise” man was me, 20 minutes earlier.) Of course, I was thrilled that the advice landed in a way that I’m sure now will be memorable, but ouch – got me.

In the second, I was helping a client establish good boundaries around her own time, protecting herself from constantly over-committing to things and letting time slip away from her. You will be shocked to learn that this session went over our standard time limit.

So, two lessons here. One is to make sure you listen to yourself. If you practice critical thinking a lot, you might get good at it. And if you get good at it (or at least better), then there’s probably a few nuggets of wisdom in there that your faulty memory won’t always conjure up. So make sure you’re paying attention to yourself – that person can be pretty smart, and certainly knows you well!

But here’s the second lesson – know when exceptions are warranted. No advice is good/useful/pertinent 100% of the time, even with a single person. That doesn’t mean that values or morals are conditional – but execution is flexible. Taking a super hardline approach of never voicing a single complaint ever may have damaged the rapport between me and my client because it could easily come across as holier-than-thou to preach in response to a mild complaint on their part, instead of commiserate and find common ground. And the little bit of time I went over in the second session was very valuable, both to the client and to myself as an exercise in what we were working on together.

In short, I should take my own advice more. But I’ve said before that it’s dangerous to ever agree with someone 100% of the time, and that even includes yourself.

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