The Doctor’s Dilemma: On Giving Advice

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Ninjas during our ninjanniversary

For several moments in my life, I often find myself listening to other people’s problems, comforting them and giving them advice. I relish in these moments because not only do I feel a sense of strengthened bond, but also, I am able to do what my heart has always been willing to do, help someone I love and care about.

In elementary and high school, I was known as the “love doctor” to some of my friends. Whenever they have emotional highs and lows about their crushes and partners, I’m the one they talk to. I didn’t have any experience back then (and until now) but they trusted my opinion because I can show them both sides of the coin, being an innocent bystander.

In college, I still retained that charm in some way. My friends know that I’m sensible enough to knock them to their senses whenever they go crazy over anything. I listen to them whole-heartedly and give them genuine and reasonable options (plural, because I try not to shove my ideas to them).

(By no means am I an expert in life or in the affairs of the heart. Maybe I just have a level head and a good ear and that’s why people tend to consult me.)

Part of me takes pride in my ability to be objective. I give advice based on the situation, the logic behind it, and most of the time, I try to remove myself from the situation in order to not to be biased. Because of that, I am able to see a wider spectrum of consequences and focus on the person who needs me. It helps me come up with what they need to hear (read as: what I need they think to hear).

The reason why I try to be objective as much as possible is because I care about the people so much that I just want to help the best way I can and I feel like doing so means balancing their emotional chaos with my reasoning. I have to be sensible for them and provide meaningful insight that they can’t see because their clouded by feelings. I’d be the stable one if they aren’t.

But recently, this way of giving advice seemed off to me. It felt, I don’t know, robotic. I found myself saying things that are different from what I want to say (because I felt like what I wanted to say wasn’t what they needed). It also felt dry and somehow repetitive because I found myself saying standard answers for similar situations. It didn’t feel like me.

One night, someone I cared about was asking advice about leaving. To me, I didn’t want that person to leave, but in a rational perspective, it was better if that person goes. How do you ask someone to stay if they have to go?

Another night, someone I cared about was feeling broken and hopeless. To me, I wanted to root for that person and urge that person to keep going, but logically, because of the situation, I thought that it would be better for that person to give the dream up. How could you encourage someone you knew wouldn’t stand a chance?

For more nights, I found myself stuck with the same dilemma. I didn’t know what to say anymore and it’s making me doubt my credibility to give advice.

Writing this post, I realized that I’ve forgotten where it all started and why people were coming to me. It wasn’t because I was good at analyzing. Before anything else, it’s because I’m their friend and they trust me.

Being a friend doesn’t always mean you’d say the right things. It means being with them through everything, listening to them just because and sharing their feelings and being honest with your own.

I want to be a friend again, really. I don’t just want to say the things I know I have to. I want to share a part of my heart too and be as genuine in giving advice as I am when listening to people. They’re worth it anyway (;they always are).

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