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“What Do You Think?”

Dov Finkelstein

A friend calls to ask your advice, whether it be about her children’s chinuch or her Shabbos menu. What steps should you take before giving your opinion? How can you tell if you’re guiding someone in the right — or wrong — direction? Read on for some pointers on giving good advice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

advice speech bubbles“What should I do??” Gitty asks, pleading with her cousin Chani for some dating advice. “It’s been nine dates and Reuven is ready to propose — or stop the shidduch. Everything on paper is perfect, but the chemistry just doesn’t feel right. Should I go forward? Or is that reason enough to call off the shidduch? What do you think?”

Chani, herself married for a number of years, quietly listens to Gitty’s dilemma for five minutes, trying to assess the situation. “You know,” she finally says, “when I met Baruch, I also wasn’t sure if the chemistry was great. But look how happy we are now, seven kids later. You’re just having cold feet because this is the first great guy that’s come along in awhile. Don’t let your nerves mess up a really good thing!” The two cousins continue discussing the issue and by the end of the conversation, Gitty is ready to follow Chani’s advice and get engaged to Reuven.

Was Chani’s advice good or bad? Did she guide her cousin in the right direction?

When we give advice — especially on important matters — most of us are familiar with that nagging thought of Was that really the appropriate thing to say? Did we speak too soon? Too rashly? Did we consider all the factors? What if our “perfect advice” backfires?

At the end of the day, hindsight is really the only way to determine if advice was good. If, for instance, Gitty and Reuven live happily ever after, the advice was great. If not, Chani may feel guilt at some point in time. Still, there are ways to improve your opinion-offering skills. Here are some pointers on what to say (and not say) the next time someone asks, “What do you think?”


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