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Thread: Advice from folks younger (or older) than yourself

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Advice from folks younger (or older) than yourself

    It was perhaps a couple years ago that a question first crossed my mind that has since cropped up repeatedly and with increasing frequency….how much credence do you give to advice or council from people (much) younger than oneself? I realize this premise is rather broad and the answer is likely quite situational, but let’s take a few examples and examine this issue from different perspectives.

    Scenario 1: car needs repairs/ taxes need to be calculated/ medical diagnosis needed/ will needs to be drafted/ pc needs repair/ or any other thing requiring a certain level of technical knowledge and expertise.
    I guess for me I have no qualms with accepting help or advice from someone 20 or more years my junior, provided there is some assurance the individual has the requisite background and at least a few years experience performing work related to the field. I figure if you have managed to stay in business for a couple years repairing pc’s or have a degree in computer science you probably know a great deal more about it than I do. Same thing goes with law school, or even possibly growing up in a grease monkey’s garage and helping dad/older brother etc working on cars for years. In some instances, particularly where technology is concerned I might even be more inclined to heed the advice of a 20 something who grew up with a computer surgically attached to them.

    Scenario 2: psychological counseling or relationship advice
    To a point I could accept the validity of someone’s advice if they held a degree in clinical psychology, but here ‘field experience’ begins to assume critical stature. I would likely accept the word of a counselor who was 10 years younger (37) than myself but find myself more inclined to take what they say with a grain of salt with each year that age differential increases. Actual life experience assumes greater importance in this area, and I recognize from my own experience this takes many years to acquire the intricacies and nuances of understanding that human nature poses. Been through a divorce and are 15 years my junior? I might be inclined to listen to some of what you have to say, based on your personal experiences but am going to be fairly selective in what is taken at face value. Any generalization coming out of your mouth will almost certainly be rejected.

    Scenario 3: advice on how to live one’s life or ‘spiritual advice’
    I can’t help it but the word ‘guru’ almost instantly springs to mind here. ‘Guru’ simply means ‘teacher’ in Sanskrit but to Westerners it implies a teacher who has attracted a group of followers. The concept of faith almost inevitably enters here and I am truly not a creature of faith when it comes down to it. Sitting in church not long ago I realized the minister was probably seven or so years my junior and she was talking about the importance of living a principled life. I certainly agree with this idea, but found myself asking ‘you haven’t experienced quite as much of the world as I have…how much of the words you speak have you integrated into your daily understanding/existence?’ It occurred to me that this individual had very likely experienced very different life experiences than I had owing to their chosen vocation (e.g. she worked as an on-call chaplain at a children’s hospital for several years – that’s something pretty much out of the realm of my experiences) and that perhaps that afforded her more insight into different areas of the human experience than I possessed. The age difference here is not that large, but if that difference was say 17 years, I think I would consider anyone’s ardently held convictions in this realm pretty suspect – the world and our views change with disturbing regularity over the course of time and in recognition of this we need to be flexible (or in the words of Bob Dylan ‘I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now’)

    How much credence do you put into the opinions of others based on their age, given different life situations? Obviously age and experience are not the only measures of validity (apparent intelligence, for instance, might be worth quite a few years) but how much do you find they factor in? Discuss.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    It was perhaps a couple years ago that a question first crossed my mind that has since cropped up repeatedly and with increasing frequency….how much credence do you give to advice or council from people (much) younger than oneself? I realize this premise is rather broad and the answer is likely quite situational, but let’s take a few examples and examine this issue from different perspectives.

    Scenario 1: car needs repairs/ taxes need to be calculated/ medical diagnosis needed/ will needs to be drafted/ pc needs repair/ or any other thing requiring a certain level of technical knowledge and expertise.
    I guess for me I have no qualms with accepting help or advice from someone 20 or more years my junior, provided there is some assurance the individual has the requisite background and at least a few years experience performing work related to the field. I figure if you have managed to stay in business for a couple years repairing pc’s or have a degree in computer science you probably know a great deal more about it than I do. Same thing goes with law school, or even possibly growing up in a grease monkey’s garage and helping dad/older brother etc working on cars for years. In some instances, particularly where technology is concerned I might even be more inclined to heed the advice of a 20 something who grew up with a computer surgically attached to them.

    Scenario 2: psychological counseling or relationship advice
    To a point I could accept the validity of someone’s advice if they held a degree in clinical psychology, but here ‘field experience’ begins to assume critical stature. I would likely accept the word of a counselor who was 10 years younger (37) than myself but find myself more inclined to take what they say with a grain of salt with each year that age differential increases. Actual life experience assumes greater importance in this area, and I recognize from my own experience this takes many years to acquire the intricacies and nuances of understanding that human nature poses. Been through a divorce and are 15 years my junior? I might be inclined to listen to some of what you have to say, based on your personal experiences but am going to be fairly selective in what is taken at face value. Any generalization coming out of your mouth will almost certainly be rejected.

    Scenario 3: advice on how to live one’s life or ‘spiritual advice’
    I can’t help it but the word ‘guru’ almost instantly springs to mind here. ‘Guru’ simply means ‘teacher’ in Sanskrit but to Westerners it implies a teacher who has attracted a group of followers. The concept of faith almost inevitably enters here and I am truly not a creature of faith when it comes down to it. Sitting in church not long ago I realized the minister was probably seven or so years my junior and she was talking about the importance of living a principled life. I certainly agree with this idea, but found myself asking ‘you haven’t experienced quite as much of the world as I have…how much of the words you speak have you integrated into your daily understanding/existence?’ It occurred to me that this individual had very likely experienced very different life experiences than I had owing to their chosen vocation (e.g. she worked as an on-call chaplain at a children’s hospital for several years – that’s something pretty much out of the realm of my experiences) and that perhaps that afforded her more insight into different areas of the human experience than I possessed. The age difference here is not that large, but if that difference was say 17 years, I think I would consider anyone’s ardently held convictions in this realm pretty suspect – the world and our views change with disturbing regularity over the course of time and in recognition of this we need to be flexible (or in the words of Bob Dylan ‘I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now’)

    How much credence do you put into the opinions of others based on their age, given different life situations? Obviously age and experience are not the only measures of validity (apparent intelligence, for instance, might be worth quite a few years) but how much do you find they factor in? Discuss.
    This one hits close to home, because I am always fighting for people to take me seriously because of my age. I think when you are the youngest person in a room you are always taken a little bit less seriously. I get the "let me talk to your boss" statement often. Obviously I work for someone, because there is no way that I would be in charge (which I'm not, but still)

    As for your scenarios:

    1: Technical knowledge is technical knowledge. If someone knows what they are doing, I am going to let them do it. If they run a successful business, I don't care their age. I think it might be interesting to see if someone hires a PC repairman that is 60 vs. one that is 25. I bet the 25 y.o. wins most the time...I think I might be biased though, again with the young tag put on me so often.

    2: I don't think experience is easily gained, so I think age does provide for more context in your knowledge base. With that said, I think that everyone is going to value advice on relationships and themselves differently. I don't know if age really is a defining characteristic for me. I think it is more their experiences. If I were going through AA I would rather talk with a 25 y.o. that has been an alcoholic than a 50 y.o. who knew an alcoholic. I don't really care about the age aspect, I care about the experience aspect.

    3: I find that as people age they like to "share" their knowledge about life and how ti live it much more. I don't think that I would take a teenager's point of view very seriously (as it doesn't apply to me), but honestly, I don't really take a person who is retired's point of view very seriously either (they don't relate to me either). I think it really has to do with the context in which advice is given, and the need for such advice. I don't generally believe in guru's or people who claim to be experts without an education or years of documented success... so maybe I am a skeptic.

    Good question though. I imagine the answers will vary on your age, and your life experiences with those younger or older.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Age isn't important to me when considering advice but what is important to me whether the individual actually seems informed. There are many people I encounter that offer advice but it is clear that they're either relying on emotion, their gut instinct, or anecdotal evidence that often isn't based on any fact. If that's the case, I tend to take their opinion with a grain of salt. Then with some people, their technical knowledge clearly hasn't kept up with the changing technology so I don't weigh their opinion as much as I would otherwise.

    Strangely I've found that age has little to do with the amount of life experience someone has. I've encountered people where they've lived in one place their entire life and their worldview is often only applicable to that one location. While there are many young people that are much more well traveled and have experienced many more things in their lives. I tend to place more weight on the advice of people who have a broad range of experiences.

  4. #4
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    As for your scenarios:
    ......3: I find that as people age they like to "share" their knowledge about life and how ti live it much more. I don't think that I would take a teenager's point of view very seriously (as it doesn't apply to me), but honestly, I don't really take a person who is retired's point of view very seriously either (they don't relate to me either). I think it really has to do with the context in which advice is given, and the need for such advice. I don't generally believe in guru's or people who claim to be experts without an education or years of documented success... so maybe I am a skeptic.

    Good question though. I imagine the answers will vary on your age, and your life experiences with those younger or older.
    Yes it was a good question if I don't say so myself But your observation is equally good. As far as #3 goes the old axiom 'there's no fool like an old fool' also should be taken into consideration.

    You're right, older people are generally more willing to foist their opinions about life and how they think it should be lived on those younger than themselves. The reality is most people - neither young nor old - live very examined lives and some oldster spouting off what they consider 'wisdom' could in fact be nothing more than recycled platitudes self-reinforced over decades. I guess wisdom comes in being able to recognize opinions based on knowlege gained through integrating ideas with life experiences versus self-reinforced scripts. Using examples of each variety based on the subject of politics: A.) old guy sidles up next to me at the American Legion post beer in hand and says "that George W. Bush and politicians like him are nothin' but a buncha goddam criminals". B) equally old guy, ofos writes something a few years ago to the effect that "over the years I've come to appreciate that political parties have much more to do with [allocation of] power than with [implementation of] ideology". Which opinion do you think belongs to which category?

    Thing is, unless we know someone particularly well it can be difficult to know what types of life experiences an individual has absorbed. It's certainly possible that a much younger person has distilled more wisdom in a much shorter time, but all other things being equal it's more likely an older person who has had life-lessons (usually unwillingly and repeatedly) shoved in their face will have had more opportunity to distill whatever they can from them.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  5. #5
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    I don't have answers for those scenarios, but I have a yoga teacher who might be thirty years younger. To her credit she does not talk much at all, but just shows you how to move this way and that. I have been doing it daily for so long I don't remember when it became daily, but the teacher still knows more than I do.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Yes it was a good question if I don't say so myself But your observation is equally good. As far as #3 goes the old axiom 'there's no fool like an old fool' also should be taken into consideration.

    You're right, older people are generally more willing to foist their opinions about life and how they think it should be lived on those younger than themselves. The reality is most people - neither young nor old - live very examined lives and some oldster spouting off what they consider 'wisdom' could in fact be nothing more than recycled platitudes self-reinforced over decades. I guess wisdom comes in being able to recognize opinions based on knowlege gained through integrating ideas with life experiences versus self-reinforced scripts. Using examples of each variety based on the subject of politics: A.) old guy sidles up next to me at the American Legion post beer in hand and says "that George W. Bush and politicians like him are nothin' but a buncha goddam criminals". B) equally old guy, ofos writes something a few years ago to the effect that "over the years I've come to appreciate that political parties have much more to do with [allocation of] power than with [implementation of] ideology". Which opinion do you think belongs to which category?

    Thing is, unless we know someone particularly well it can be difficult to know what types of life experiences an individual has absorbed. It's certainly possible that a much younger person has distilled more wisdom in a much shorter time, but all other things being equal it's more likely an older person who has had life-lessons (usually unwillingly and repeatedly) shoved in their face will have had more opportunity to distill whatever they can from them.
    It's much easier to speak [parenthetically] when you don't have a beer [] in hand. Nice of you to hold me up as model of erudition [symbolically].
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  7. #7
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    I am always fighting for people to take me seriously because of my age. I get the "let me talk to your boss" statement often. Obviously I work for someone, because there is no way that I would be in charge (which I'm not, but still)
    One of my pet peeves is when people say "you look young" and then go on to say how I'll appreciate it when I'm older. Hink, are you the same way? Maybe I will appreciate it when I'm older, but right now I'm trying to build credibility in a work environment, gain respect from business contacts, etc., and being/looking young does not help. It's like people don't realize what they say sometimes.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  8. #8
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    One of my pet peeves is when people say "you look young" and then go on to say how I'll appreciate it when I'm older. Hink, are you the same way? Maybe I will appreciate it when I'm older, but right now I'm trying to build credibility in a work environment, gain respect from business contacts, etc., and being/looking young does not help. It's like people don't realize what they say sometimes.
    Yes. I believe that they mean it in a positive context, but still it is demeaning. When I am usually the youngest person in a room by 10 years, telling me that I will enjoy being told I am young "someday" doesn't make me respect you. I am glad I don't look 40 at my age, but I do think it is more difficult to be taken seriously. Not to mention that I get carded every time. I thought once I had 3 kids this wouldn't be the case....
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  9. #9
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ofos View post
    It's much easier to speak [parenthetically] when you don't have a beer [] in hand. Nice of you to hold me up as model of erudition [symbolically].
    How do you know I wasn't using you as the example of "recycled platitudes self-reinforced over decades"? I didn't actually say which example was which now, did I?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    How do you know I wasn't using you as the example of "recycled platitudes self-reinforced over decades"? I didn't actually say which example was which now, did I?
    If I didn't have the wisdom of age, I might make that mistake. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going out for a beer.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  11. #11
    Cyburbian terraplnr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Scenario 2: psychological counseling or relationship advice
    Experience has proven to me that I’m over taking relationship advice from anyone, young or old. I guess the advice I got from older people has been “better”, but they still had their own agendas. It’s way too easy for others to dispense “advice” when they haven’t been through a similar situation so can’t truly say what they’d do, or they are too influenced by their own past experiences to clearly see what my situation is. Or, they don’t truly think before they speak, and say something really hurtful. I’d rather talk about the weather or Super Bowl commercials.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by terraplnr View post
    Experience has proven to me that I’m over taking relationship advice from anyone, young or old. I guess the advice I got from older people has been “better”, but they still had their own agendas. It’s way too easy for others to dispense “advice” when they haven’t been through a similar situation so can’t truly say what they’d do, or they are too influenced by their own past experiences to clearly see what my situation is.
    I've encountered this a lot with people older than myself. It gets annoying talking to them when they start offering advice when they don't even know what that they're talking about. I especially dislike when these people somehow think they understand your own personal family situation more so than you do. Then I get left having to try to defend my own family situation to people who don't even try to make an effort to see things from others' perspectives. Like I occasionally get unsolicited advice from two women I work with about how important family is and why I should make the effort to track down family members I don't have contact with.

    I've learned to avoid talking about personal issues with some of my coworkers...

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