Advice is tricky. If it’s unwelcome or poorly timed, it can feel like an ill-fitting sweater — constricting, itchy and unflattering. Even if it’s solid wisdom, maybe it’s just not the right fit or style for the person on the receiving end.
But advice that’s desired — and imparted with empathy, experience and humility? That’s like a favorite pair of jeans you come back to year after year because they make you feel like the best version of yourself.
At Life Kit, we interview a lot of people who give advice for a living. We wondered what pointers they keep on steady rotation. So we asked them: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Here are 10 pieces of well-worn advice from therapists, career coaches, relationship experts and writers. We hope you find something that resonates.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity
1. ‘There’s more than one way to do something’
I remember scrubbing a pan when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. There was something stuck on the pan that wouldn’t come off, and I just kept scrubbing it. My dad stopped me, grabbed a fork and just scraped it off. And he looked at me and said, “Jody, there’s more than one way to do something.” From that moment on, I’ve been looking at every problem in my life like how can I do this a different way? — Jody Adewale, clinical psychologist
2. ‘The hate will come at the same rate as the love’
The best advice I ever received was that the hate will come at the same rate as the love. There will always be people who are so dissatisfied with themselves that they have to project that onto other people. And instead of trying to focus on the negativity, I tend to try to put more energy into the people and the things that are showing me love, support and good energy. — Kiaundra Jackson, marriage and family therapist
3. ‘Do smaller loads of laundry’
I used to work at a small grocery store, and before moving away to college, I asked the store manager, “What’s the No. 1 thing that I need to know about going away to college?” And he said, “Do smaller loads of laundry. Your clothes will come out cleaner.” — Shaun Galanos, a relationship coach and host of The Love Drive podcast
4. ‘Being vulnerable means taking off our armor’
I was talking with my therapist about how I didn’t mind being vulnerable as long as I knew the other person would be warm, that they wouldn’t judge and all of that. And she said, “that’s not vulnerable. Being vulnerable means taking off our armor and going in not knowing how we’ll be received, but putting ourselves out there a little bit anyway.” — Tania Israel, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara
5. ‘Go where the energy goes’
The best piece of advice I ever received was “Go where the energy goes.” What has good vibes? What makes you feel good about yourself? Where is that good energy? Head in that direction. — Betty Who, pop star and the host of the reality dating series, “The One That Got Away”
6. ‘It’s not all about you’
The best piece of advice I was given was, “Shanita, it’s not all about you.” When I’m in a situation where a tough decision has to be made and it feels personal, I remind myself it’s not all about me, and that I’m one piece of a bigger universe that’s at play right now. — Shanita Williams, career coach and the author of Feedback Mentality
7. Expect yourself to change
We all change every five years or so. More or less, we have to expect ourselves to change, and we have to expect people in our lives to change. That little piece of advice has given me a lot of space for room and for growth. — Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a financial therapist and host of the Mind Money Balance podcast
8. ‘When people show you who they are, believe them’
When people show you who they are, believe them. Far too often, I have seen us try to recreate who we want people to be, only to later find out they are exactly what they’ve been demonstrating. — Nedra Glover Tawwab, licensed therapist and the author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace
9. Pace out your self-improvement
Don’t be so overly involved with your self-improvement. Accept the gifts and abilities that you have, and don’t spend so much time trying to develop new ones that you sacrifice your gifts. Be yourself. — David Defoe, a psychotherapist who specializes in depression, anxiety and grief
10. It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know’
Something I’ve benefited a lot from is telling yourself, “I don’t know. And that’s exactly where I should be when I take that first step.” I’m as ready as I ever will be. I’m going to do it, and I’ll know more after. — Becky Kennedy, clinical psychologist and author of Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
Your Turn: How do you show affection to your friends?
We’d love to hear the best advice you’ve ever received. Email your response to [email protected] with the subject line “best advice” by March 3, 2023 and include your name and location. We may feature it in a story on NPR.
This Life Kit story was produced by our visuals editor Beck Harlan. Our digital editor is Danielle Nett.
The Dear Life Kit series is hosted by Andee Tagle and produced by Beck Harlan and Sylvie Douglis. Bronson Arcuri is the managing producer and Meghan Keane is the supervising editor.
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