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Lynn Hummel: Let me give you some advice

Let me give you some advice. Here it is: don’t be giving advice.

There is an old German proverb: “Never give advice unless asked.” I would add this… “and then, only seldom.”

Generally speaking, unsolicited advice is about as welcome as an evangelist at your door from some church other than your own. If you hear the expression, “Let me give me some friendly advice,” it will be about as friendly as a punch in the gut — and as welcome.

My most memorable unrequested advice came when Eartha and I had been married for two years and still had not produced any children. This guy, old enough to be my father (but not as wise as my father) assuming, by his standards, that we had a problem, seriously suggested a formula for generating a pregnancy.

His own “expertise” was not based on medical information or anything else other than that he was the father of two. What colossal arrogance — I remember it all these years and three children later. My startled, unspoken reaction at the time was, “Who asked you?”

The most frequent category of advice not asked for, but given anyway, has been observed by Harvey Karp, a well-known pediatrician who wrote “The Happiest Baby in the Block” in 2002, and “The Happiest Toddler in the Block” in 2004.

Dr. Karp refers to the first three months of a baby’s life as the “fourth trimester,” and recommends that newborns will be happy if provided the warmth, feeling and sounds of the womb.

But he recognizes that friends, neighbors, and family also offer advice. Karp says, “America’s favorite pastime is not baseball, but giving un-asked for advice to new parents.”

When you enroll in school, join a church, join a team, or get married, you are giving implied consent to teachers, preachers, coaches and spouses to provide unrequested advice, so get used to it. Or if you pay a doctor, accountant, lawyer or other professional for advice, follow it. Other than those categories, advice not asked for or paid for can be most annoying.

Not that I give marital advice, but unsolicited advice from a spouse can also be annoying. If you are married and have never been annoyed by a “helpful suggestion” from your spouse, you probably weren’t listening.

One husband I know had had it up to his eyeballs and finally told his wife, “I don’t need another boss.” You know what her answer was: “Yes you do.”

There are exceptions to the advice about not giving advice. Two of the most welcome and helpful pieces of unrequested advice I’ve ever received were: “Your fly is open,” and “You have mustard on your mustache.” The mustard comment came just last week.

Summarizing the lesson for this week: judge not and advise seldom. And, I might add, if you have advice, as some do, with a topic of my next column, write it yourself. I have enough problems expressing my own ideas to try and tackle yours.