Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Second (And Third and Fourth) Opinions

Did you ever notice that you go to the same people for advice all the time? It's not too surprising. If people have advised you well in the past, why wouldn't you keep listening? And if you return to the same people, you can generally pick up where you left off. There is no need to review your whole "back story." Your "advisor" already knows it. It's simple, it's dependable, it's perfect. Most of the time.

Don't get me wrong--I am immensely grateful for my "go-to" people--friends and family members who know me well enough (and have enough patience with me) to talk through work and life situations, not once, but many times. They have helped me negotiate choices, practice interviews, proofread letters, and make it through hard situations, and I appreciate that. Sometimes, however, we need to step beyond our normal "advisors," to look for a different perspective, even if getting that perspective means having to tell our story all over again. While our "regulars" may know us so well that they can fill in the things we forget to mention, new listeners require us to relate our story from the beginning. They force us to think through the pieces we usually gloss over. Whether their sage advice is really sage at all, getting that advice requires us to verbalize our issues. It forces us to dig a little deeper and express a little more. And sometimes, that extra thought, particularly when combined with a new set of opinions, can allow us to think in new, different, and often enlightening ways.

I wouldn't give up my regular "advisors" for the world. They keep me focused and on track. They have the patience to hear the same stories over and over and to understand why they are told. They know me well enough to talk things through in shorthand. But I was reminded this week that an outside opinion can be a fantastic addition to a decisionmaking process. When we have to explain, we learn. When we have to look beyond the normal answers, we often start asking beyond the normal questions. And perhaps we find things we never knew existed.

So, to my normal advisors and to the new ones, I say thanks. I make it through my choices because of both of you. I learn to tell my story, and I see it understood, by both of you. I see things more clearly because you point them out differently. And ultimately, the paths that I take include your advice, all along the way.

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