On Advice and Communication

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I while back I talked to someone in our class of thirty. Someone I don’t usually talk to. He was one of the people I interacted with infrequently this year. I remember sharing some uncanny experiences with him in eighth grade during Sanskrit class, a subject in which I was perpetually the least knowledgeable person around. He would tilt the right side of the book when I was sitting towards his left, therefore giving me most of his answers, and vice versa. In hindsight, he did this thinking I would repay the favour in some other subject, but he never required it and so I was never able to.

Fast forward a lot of time and he comes to me for advice on a matter in which he perceives me to be familiar with. Through word of mouth I’ve heard that I was his “guru” on these type of situations. Truthfully, I’m the least conversant person you’ll find; my communication skills are worse than call-centre complain handlers, and I do not, in fact, actively enjoy reading. He comes to me for advice. Fair enough. I give him advice.
All of it was wrong advice, though. Wrong in the sense that I thought of the most ridiculous things and regurgitated it without filtering it through. I thought any moment now he’d get up and walk away after calling me ineffectual or something along those lines. The remarkable part, was, though, that he didn’t. He continued questioning, expecting insightful answers, apparently seeming pleased at what I was telling him.

Rivers of time later it occurred to me, that maybe it’s not the advice that he was impressed with. Taking a chair and turning it around to talk to someone sets atleast some expectations of you wanting to converse with the person rather deeply. Maybe it was the way I was talking that made him think, “seems legit.” And that’s when I discovered that communication is the key to success, only if you can successfully communicate. Otherwise, it’s your demise.

Authority figures tend to have an air of leadership about them. They’re at the forefront of decision making, and through experience itself they’ve adapted to that climate of calm yet deeply attached familiarity. Sounding convincing, even if the sounds later sink in and solidify as the opposite.

I think he felt as though I was on his side, even though I was just messing around with him.
Nevertheless, later, when I asked him how it went, he told me it didn’t work out very well. And yet he comes to me for more advice. I guess eventually he’ll learn to see through the mask that people wear. Or maybe he’ll just learn not to listen to stupid advice.

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Upamanyu Acharya is a writer who doesn't write. Sometimes he's an artist, musician, photographer, physicist or lazy student. His hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words. This is his personal blog where he writes on topics ranging from leadership skills to the consistency of jam.

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