May I make a suggestion? No, really. I am seeking your consent to offer a criticism couched as helpful advice. I picked up the term of art, advice and consent,” in the context of the U.S. Senate judicial confirmation hearings. While in that venue, advice and consent refers to a Congressional role, I believe it has wider application in our daily lives.
Do you have people in your personal and professional lives who ceaselessly suggest changes to the way you operate?
What’s wrong with making suggestions, especially if you first ask? You’re only trying to be helpful.
It’s not the suggestions themselves or the individuals who offer them. It’s that the advice often arises from a lack of applicable experience, knowledge, responsibilities, or skills in those areas they would like to see you change. The advice may be apropos their relationship with you. Or they just believe it is and so it’s okay to tell you what to do. A scene from the 1960s movie, “The Graduate,” comes to mind when Benjamin Braddock, scion of a mega-rich Beverly Hills couple, has to endure his parents’ friends at his college graduation pool party. I paraphrase the one-word Polonius-inspired recommendation intoned by one of the drunken, midlife revelers, i.e., “Plastics.”
Freedom of expression is an American ideal and I love it. After all, they let me write in this magazine! But, I submit that not everyone who wants to be heard should be heeded by all whom they subject to their unsolicited advice.
For readers who know me personally, these thoughts are not at all intended to inform your interactions with me. Instead, please feel free to use them as a guide in fending off the unwelcome, unsolicited suggestions of others. Take my advice—tell them Ellen sent you. And to address a recurrent theme in my own life, I beg the indulgence of beloved friends and family who cringe at my tendency to discard…. Plastics.
ELLEN FISCHER, A RETIRED FRAUD INVESTIGATOR, IS MARRIED TO RABBI DOV FISCHER.