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When to and When Not to?
There’s a centuries old cliché, “Wisdom comes with age”. Research shows that age, with experience, does make a person wise. Most men and women above 60 are more likely to make better long-term decisions, while their young counterparts tend to confuse short-term gratification with long-term satisfaction. It follows that listening attentively to our elders and seeking their advice in almost all spheres of life is essential for us to gain firsthand knowledge on all pertinent matters and improve our decision making process; but is this always the case? Is there any time when we should stop listening to our elders? If yes, then when?
Looking around us, elderly advice comes from everywhere. Be it a senior professor sharing their experiences while straying from a lecture, a parent’s words of wisdom to their children, an aging boss giving away professional tips to a newly-recruited young trainee at the office, even an old war veteran sharing his heroic tales during the Vietnam War. Psychologists and scientists are of the opinion that young individuals to listen to their elders for guidance and counseling. But it is worth noting that their opinion does not apply to certain exceptional cases.
So what are those cases? Everyday life provides an answer. An aging Alzheimer’s patient might not be the best role model for a personal advice. An elder with a serious dislike towards latest technology shouldn’t be referred to when choosing which new cell phone or computer to buy. An elder with a criminal record might not make the best candidate for a lecture on moral values at a local community talk program and shouldn’t be listened to. An aging college professor who, despite his profound knowledge on any topic at a theoretical level, but without any practical experience; shouldn’t be listened to while planning your professional career. When the listener know a certain elderly member in their family with a tendency to gossip and stir troubles, it is best not to listen to them every time they share family news with the listener. A disgruntled senior manager with a record of acts of professional jealousy should be ignored when talking about professional guidance.
In any case, the decision on when not to listen to our elders lies with the listeners themselves. When not to listen to elders is a question that varies from person to person and from case to case. Hearing out their life experiences or their advice is one thing, but actively listening, absorbing and planning to implement their advices in the individual listener’s own life is a separate activity all-together. It is no harm in merely hearing out an elder, but while listening to an elder with an objective of understanding, the listener must be cautious at all times while listening to an elder and keep the following factors in mind:
- Is the elder directly or indirectly related to the listener?
- Is the elder in a fiduciary position with respect to the listener?
- Is the elder in such a position so as to enable the listener to trust him/her?
- Is the elder being objectively listened to or just heard out?
- Is the elder in a position to provide a sound, practical advice to the listener?
- Is the problem being discussed with the listener is within the ambit of the field of expertise of that elder person?