Why we hate others telling us what to do

Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

People think I am a stubborn person. I do what I want. I like making decisions. I like following my emotions, explore my thought processes. I think they see me as a bone-headed grouchy guy (maybe not grouchy) who refuses to take inputs (not really true).

It took me years of introspection to break down why I hate this happening to me. And oh, by the way, introspection is not cool, unless you are doing it sitting in a cabin, caressed by cool mountain air, in a meditative pose thinking of nothing…introspection at home in front of a squeaky fan that provides you a bit of respite from the heat- not cool (or so people say).

The key issue? Power. Very specifically…personal power. People love toys- they can tell the toy what to do, how to move, when to stay. A toy does not talk back, it can be ignored when not needed.

Here’s the nub- a toy has no brain. It can’t think, it can’t feel, what you think and feel becomes what the toy does. Human beings are not toys. I am not, in any case.

I guess now I might receive a few gentle arguments about well-intentioned advice, not knowing what you are doing unless pointed out, etc. Well-intentioned advice works for a person ready to receive it. By all means we should offer advice, but advice that is not wanted becomes the ten commandments.

So, is there no hope for remediation and reform? Am I bound to a life of misery, stumbling into dark corners of mediocrity due to my low penchant for the pearls of wisdom that are generously scattered my way? Not really. And that is where the concept of freedom comes in.

People like advice that they seek. People are reading this article because they want to, not because I have rammed it down their throats in a claustrophobic party atmosphere. People need to give you permission to tell them what to do, to give their consent. If you are in a workplace, you have given explicit (and implicit) consent to your employers to give you feedback. If you are married, you have given your spouse consent to give you feedback (about things that affect them,). If you are a public servant, you have given the public consent to question you all they want.

The beautiful thing that people find it difficult to understand, is that advice is just that…advice. And you have the choice to follow it, or not…and embrace the consequences. You are free not to heed public opinion and find yourself looking for a new job. You are free to ignore feedback at work, and find yourself sidelined (at best).

But there is advice that you can safely, and should, ignore. Advice about your body, when you are old enough to decide your lifestyle. Advice about your emotions when you are mature enough to decide what you want to feel. Advice about your work from people who have little knowledge about what you do. It is good to learn new things, it is good to know all that you don’t know. You will never be old enough, mature enough or have enough grey hairs to know it all. That doesn’t mean others are any better.

All you need is to be mature enough to know how much you don’t know. All you need is to be mature enough to know who and what to listen to. But in the end, you and I should take our own advice.

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