SEEKING COUNSEL & TAKING ADVICE

I know you’re thinking, “counsel and advice have similar meaning, so why use both in one title?” Well, there’s a reason why I used both in the title of this article. Keep reading to find out. 

I’ll define the act of seeking counsel as going out of your way and putting aside your ego to ask for guidance on an issue bothering you, especially one you haven’t been able to deal with on your own. On the other hand, taking advice, in the context of this article, does not necessarily involve you going to someone. 

There are two scenarios to taking advice, one is that someone might notice a dent or dangerous pattern in your life or way of life and walk up to you to hand you some advice on how to correct or go about such. The second scenario involves picking or learning from someone’s narration of their experience.

People often tend to unknowingly give advice after concluding the narration of an experience they’ve had. Most times, they don’t even know that the listener is currently going through what they’ve gone through. This is why I take my time to listen keenly to other people’s experiences in life to see if I can deduce any advice that could help me in my future endeavours.

Sometimes, it’s vice versa, I narrate my experience so that other people can pick one or two things that could help them on their journey of life. You never know to whom you could be of help, and I love to think I’m helping, at least, contributing my own quota to the world.

I don’t think a lot of people understand this, but while observing the pattern of my life over the years, I’ve discovered that when I come across scenarios in life that are similar to what someone has previously told me about, I tend to have a ready-made plan for such situation in my subconscious mind. This might sound funny but if you haven’t already, please start taking note of this. 

Whenever someone talks about an experience they’ve had, try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would have handled the situation before you heard their story and then, how you think you’ll handle the situation now that you’ve heard their story and learnt from their mistakes.

Personally, I prefer this approach of taking advice because it’s usually more viable and relatable, especially when you’re giving advice, you don’t have to directly tell the person what to do, all you have to do is let them learn from your story or someone else’s. The advantage is that this sticks with the person more than you handing them direct advice. 

The problem with giving direct advice is that you usually do not know the person in totality and without this, you cannot efficiently give advice. What would work for person A might not work for person B, not because the method isn’t right, but because person A and person B are totally different individuals who have different life patterns, process life differently and act in different manner. 

The fact is, when you walk up to someone to seek their counsel, it’s mostly because you aspire to be somewhat like them or see them as a mentor of some sort and you want to know how they were able to be who they are. You see, it still boils down to the psychology behind taking advice. 

While most people go to friends and friendlies to seek counsel, taking advice doesn’t necessarily have to be from a friend or mentor. You can take advice from a foe or unfriendly person by merely listening to their experience, learning from their mistakes and holding on to that concluding advice that usually ends the narration of their experience. 

Finally, I’ll leave you with this. Life is too complex to learn from friends alone. If you really want to make it easy for yourself, start learning from everyone. Everyone has something to teach, but they hardly know it. It’s your duty to find it and use it to your advantage in life. 

THE STRANGER AT THE AIRPORT

Some years back, I was stuck at the airport for about three hours waiting for my parents to pick me up. After checking out my luggage, I moved on to the arrival hall to wait for my parents, and after settling down on the bench, a man walked up to me and asked if he could sit next to me. He seemed harmless and we were in a public area so, why not? I obliged him and we exchanged pleasantries.

After about five minutes of silence he spoke to me again. He asked if I was a student being that I had so much luggage and looked really young. I told him I was and we started chatting about random things going on at the airport. We then moved on to talking about the country and recent events.

Suddenly, he switched the conversation to himself. It seemed like he was really anxious to talk. He started telling me about his life and family. He talked about some of his dark secrets, no holds barred. At this point I was baffled. I mean, this is a stranger I started an innocent chat with and the conversation is turning out to be nothing like one I’d normally have with a stranger.

He narrated several events that had happened in his life and I just couldn’t help but listen. First of all, because I was stuck at the airport at 5:00 am in the morning with nowhere to go and secondly, I felt that he really needed someone to listen to him. Someone who knew nothing about him and would not judge him. I wanted to be that person. I had to be.

I understood him. There were times I had wished I could talk to a neutral person who cared to give me a listening ear, about some things bothering my mind, and wouldn’t be able to connect any dots from past conversations we’ve had. Someone who is just there to listen and give objective counsel, if need be.

But what was really different about the conversation was the fact that everything he talked about dated several years back. This made me more attentive, and as the conversation went on, I was able to deduce that he really had no one to talk to about those things. I was scared for him, but also happy for him. 

I was scared because I couldn’t believe he had bottled up those emotions inside him for that long and still seemed so normal on the outside. I wondered how he had been coping and how those emotions would have affected some decisions he had made in life. They actually did, based on his story, but I was happy for him because he finally got to talk to someone, me. At least, he was finally able to summon the courage.

However, I couldn’t help but wonder why he chose me. It kept popping up in my head while he was talking. “Why me?” I kept asking myself. I then figured that I seemed like the most approachable person around. He had had it to his neck. He had slipped into depression. He just wanted to talk to someone at that moment. I guess I was the most available and suitable person at the moment.

I was able to give him some counsel. I was only 21 at the time, but I had gotten to see life a lot more differently than an average 21 year old. I think he was thrilled by how I handled it. I must tell you, those secrets were dark. I was glad I could help him, for the time being. At least, I listened and he felt better. I could see it, the relief.

Notwithstanding, I learned a lot from my encounter with him. I learnt that carrying your emotional burden alone would do you no good, more so bottling them up for too long. Those things have a way of haunting you. Also, I learned to stop judging people when they open up to me. I feel like that’s exactly what held him back from talking to anyone he knew. Not even one person qualified, not one.

Finally, I hope I was actually able to touch his life positively, I hope that every time he remembers that day, he can hold out hope for a little bit more, I hope that everyone who reads this would find someone who has the patience to listen to you and also deem it fit to lend someone a listening ear, hopefully, their secrets are not as dark as those of the stranger at the airport.