Cambrian: Opinion

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take your own advice

Diane Brooke
Diane Brooke

There is nothing like cleaning up someone else’s poop to keep you humble. Nurses and caregivers of all sorts do it regularly. One has to be truly dedicated to “service to others” when they sign on for these types of jobs.

Janitors also encounter such scenarios. I do. But, as I said, it is a good way to stay grounded and humble. Didn’t keep me from grumbling out loud about a certain mess this morning. But, someday, I may be needing that service. Grateful for the opportunity to remember this.

It can be hard listening to your own advice and ideas. I need to listen to my own. All of it. That I’ve dished out to all of you over so many years. When one of the dearest people in your life hands you a piece of paper about “how to be a good listener,” you take notice. First shame, then hurt, then shame, hurt, then defensive in remembering plenty of times the shoe was on the other foot, then … well, I know better at this stage in my life — sit down and think about it.

“Listen” and act accordingly if it is for the better. Listening is always for the better. I was humbled again, grateful the person cared enough to share that.

What is it about following our own advice? The Daily Good has an article on just that (

“Really, it’s a simple matter of perspective. It’s hard to be your own adviser because you’re too close to your own problems, and so your emotions are more likely to cloud your judgment. It’s much easier to identify the most rational option, on the other hand, when you’ve got an outsider’s vantage point. ‘When we are in a particular situation, we take lots of irrelevant factors into account,’ said Dan Ariely, the behavioral economist, best-selling author, and sometime advice columnist for The Wall Street Journal. ‘But when we’re external to it, we sometimes look at things more objectively.’ ”

There was a joke in hypnotherapy class that we get into the helping professions to help ourselves. A retired MFT friend of mine said as much. So, while I don’t welcome pain and suffering, nor do I readily jump to my own page of suggestions for dealing with the issue de jour, I do try to at least stop, sit down and think about it before speaking or acting. I believe it’s called Emotional Intelligence — recognizing what you are feeling, where you feel it and how it is being triggered. One then may be able to have a clearer perspective on matters. Makes sense, right?

There is another enlightening piece by two professors, Maurice Schweitzer and Francesca Gino ( about how our emotions affect our advice taking.

“ ‘We focus on incidental emotions, emotions triggered by a prior experience that is irrelevant to the current situation,’ the two scholars note in their paper, titled “Blinded by Anger or Feeling the Love: How Emotions Influence Advice Taking.” ‘We find that people who feel incidental gratitude are more trusting and more receptive to advice than are people in a neutral emotional state, and that people in a neutral state are more trusting and more receptive to advice than are people who feel incidental anger.”

If you regularly practice gratitude, you’ve received a raise, had an unexpected compliment or things are just generally “going okay,” you are much more inclined to take advice. Conversely, if you are someone who always looks at things with a critical eye, perhaps you’ve lost someone in your life, your car broke down or you are feeling particularly insecure for whatever reason, you are going to find it hard to disengage from that emotion and listen to a suggestion or direction and respond appropriately. (Keep that in mind when you encounter a crabby waitress, cashier, etc.)

I suppose it is like the old tale of the cobbler’s children needing shoes, but in this case it is putting hammer to your inner self to shape it into a beautiful, more receptive vessel. Just trying to remember that, not call myself a sissy crybaby or some such nonsense because it is just how I felt at the time.

I look at it now — my hands are cleaned, my clothes are changed, and I’ve calmed down and taken the time to put it into perspective. And I’m feeling grateful for all these lessons. That is my goal. That is myself listening to my own advice.

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at