How To Give Delicate Advice

“What do you think?” or “What will you do if it were you?” You are pressed to say something on a delicate situation, for which you’d rather have no opinion or pretend not to have an opinion.

The situation becomes more dire when it concerns your friend’s love life. If you don’t give an answer, you look so heartless that you are sure to say goodbye to the friend. If you give an answer, there will be more questions based on your answer. So this answer of yours is basically opening doors for more questions. Whether your friend likes your answer or not, you are putting yourself in a precarious situation.

When the emotional crisis is over, she will usually forget about the pain and her own nagging question, but she will always remember your answer. Then she would tell her lover your advice to make you look like the witch who wants to break them up. Or she would tell your answers to women you hardly ever spoke to, or pass your answers to people, for whose situation your answers are completely unfit.

I have experienced all these, but still I keep on giving advice because I just can’t keep my big mouth shut. I am no psychologist or philosopher, but… Remember Sartre likes to give his analyses and predictions about worldly affairs, but his analyses are often too unrealistic to be applicable, his prediction too wrong to be taken seriously.

I can just imagine Aesop received so many requests for advice that he was tired of it. So what did he do? He started to write his fables to voice his opinion without really getting involved.

The difficulty of giving advice has a lot to do with the nature of the immigrant’s life. As an immigrant, the life you grew up with is very different from the life you are living right now. The life you grew up with is much simpler, people more of your own circle. However the life you are living now is more complicated, people often from various circles. The problem you are facing can be the same human problems, but with a new twist of language, geography, politics, social media.

For example, many questions of immigrant’s life involves geography. Lovers can be separated on the two sides of the Pacific; children can be sent back to be raised by grandparents due to the high kindergarten fees. If you are to give advice to such a person, you have to consider all these contingent factors.

And finally whenever you get a question about English language, which happens regularly, your answer is never “learning English”. I have to say most immigrants’ English level stays the same no matter how many years we live in America. We learned English in classrooms a world away, mostly about memorizing words and practicing the grammar rules. However in America, nobody is keen on memorization, let alone words; for grammar, nobody cares. This is probably why many immigrants enjoy no further improvement on language because our way of learning is nowhere to be found here.

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