Definition of advice

MerriamWebster online defines advice as: a recommendation regarding a decision or course of conduct as in „he shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties (United States Constitution); information or notice given; an official notice concerning a business transaction.

Examples of advice: My advice is to sell your old car and get a new one; take my advice and sell your old car; He needs advice from an expert; She’s been giving him some expert advice about investing; “May I ask your advice about something?” “Certainly. I’m always happy to give advice when asked for it.

Middle English avis, advis view, opinion, from Anglo-French, from the Old French phrase ce m’est a vis that appears to me, part translation of Latin mihi visum est it seemed so to me, I decided. First Known Use: 14th century.

Interestingly, see the synonyms MerriamWebster lists for advice. Adjuration: a solemn oath; an earnest urging or advising. Admonish: to speak to someone in a way that expresses disapproval or criticism; to tell or urge someone to do something. Admonition: a criticism or warning about behavior.

In other words, advice can be received as solemn, earnest (heartfelt, conerned) help or as disapproval, criticism, even as a warning.

Friend. Freund.

What is a friend?

MerriamWebster online writes: a person who you like and enjoy being with; a person who helps or supports someone or something; one attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion.

Middle English frend, from Old English frēond; akin to Old High German friunt friend, Old English frēon to love, frēo free. First Known Use: before 12th century. Among its synonyms are alter ego, amgo, buddy, chum, compadre. comrade, confidant, crony, familiar, intimate, pal.

What is a Freund?

dwds(dot)de writes: Vertrauter, someone you can trust; jemandem innerlich verbundener Mensch, a person who is especially close to another. Old High German (8th Century) vriunt, friend, next closest, mate, relative.

This is not the place to address how Americans and Germans diverge in the understanding of friend, friendship, what it means to be a friend. But here is a thought:

Is it not the true friend who has your best interests in mind, and therefore is willing to risk the loss of your friendship in order to convey a message which is painfully important for you to hear?

Formulated differently: What true friend, who sees that you are on the wrong path, would not speak to you about it?

Books on advice-giving

When typing in „advice“ into amazon(dot)com – USA – roughly 140,000 books are listed. When inputting Ratgeber (literally advice-givers) into amazon(dot)de – Germany – about 640,000 books are listed.

There 320 million people in the U.S. In Germany there are 80 million. The American population is four times larger than the German. However, there are four times more books written in Germany on giving advice than in the U.S.

The Germans give advice and the Germans take advice.

“What would you do?“

With the recent popularity of YouTube and other amateur video websites, people have been staging scenarios and filming people’s reactions to them. This is particularly popular in the U.S., where, in addition to amateur reaction videos, in 2008 ABC created a television show called What Would You Do?

In the show, actors and actresses pretend to be in situations in which they would benefit from unsolicited advice (domestic abuse, drugged beverages, etc.), and the show collects statistics on how many people offer advice or warnings.

Typically, most Americans who witness these situations don’t get involved. In one episode, in which a caregiver in a park berates the elderly man for whom he’s supposed to be caring, and refuses to take the elderly man home when asked, only one-quarter of the people who witnessed the interaction intervened. Other episodes typically have similar statistics of intervention.

Advice-givers advice

There are hundreds of American advice-givers on the web. Let’s read what they write about unsolicited advice:

“Your opinion is valuable, your advice even more precious. So, save it. Keep it for yourself. Odds are, you need it more than I do. So, please don’t give that sh*t away, certainly not without even being asked.”

“Have a nice day,” said the mom to her teenage daughter; to which the daughter replied, `Motherrrr, will you pulleeeeze stop telling me what to do!´ I empathize with both parties in this old joke. Sometimes we get so overrun by unsolicited advice that even the most innocuous, benevolent advice becomes intolerable.”

“Unsolicited Advice: We’ve all received it at some point in our lives and we’ve all given it as well. In some few cases, if we didn’t know enough about the circumstance to ask for advice then we are appreciative if someone tells us – but those moments are few and far between. The majority of the time we feel that the other person is trying to take our own power away. We feel as if they believe that we are not capable of taking care of ourselves and knowing what we need.”

“Four tips on how to give unsolicited advice: 1. Rephrase your advice as your own personal experience. 2. To repeat: Keep your stories short and relevant. Most people’s attention span is a lot shorter than your speaking ability! 3. If you must give direct advice disguise it as “How I did it” or “How someone else did it”. 4. Accept that the recipient will reject or act on your advice at their own will and allow them their self motivation.”

“Who are you?!“

Many Americans are the descendants of people who left their homes to escape what they considered to be imposing or coercive laws in their native countries. As such, they’ve been raised to consider any interference (even unsolicited, but well-meaning, advice) as an attack on their freedom as Americans.

This in the sense of: ;„Who are you to tell me how to live? This is America. A free country. I can live the way I want! Americans are very fearful of one group in the U.S. dictating to another how they should live.

coerce: to restrain or dominate by force; to compel to an act or choice; to achieve by force or threat. Middle English cohercen. Anglo-French cohercer. Latin coercēre, to shut up, enclose. Synonyms: force, compel, constrain, dragoon, drive, impel, impress, make, muscle, obligate, oblige, pressure.

Golf Swing next to Pool

Twenty laps done. I decided to jump out of the pool and simulate my golf swing. I had played a few rounds in the U.S., bought some used clubs, and decided to get back into it. Lap swimming builds shoulder muscles. Good to stretch a bit then swim some more. As I’m swiveling from right to left, swinging my imaginary golf club, I hear from lane two: Sie müssen die Hüfte stärker schwenken.

Had I heard that right? I needed to swing my hips a bit more? Oh no, I thought. Here we go again. I immediately knew that I had a choice to make. Get angry at him, wait for him to come out of the pool then tell him to keep his opinions to himself or not get angry.

I opted to react positively, looking at him with question marks in my eyes. He repeated himself, with a smile. I smiled back. After my swim I bumped into him in the locker room. Later, sitting outside we talked for well over an hour. He was a delightful gentleman who had simply looked for a way to strike up a conversation with me. I’m glad he did.