We learn from looking at other people's lives . . .
When Wayne and Tamara Mitchell began their column in 1999, it was with the intent of answering each letter in a way that gives the reader deeper understanding. As they have often said, they intend to help people become students of relationships, so they can answer their own questions.
Each column is 650 words long, and Wayne and Tamara don't waste words. That is why there is no 'Dear Wayne and Tamara' and no 'We care.'
Dispensing with extra words allows the reader to get a better feel for the letter writer, and it allows the reader to think about the letter, form an opinion, and consider how they might answer. The letters are like the case histories used to study law or business.
The name of the letter writer is always changed, and usually there is no mention of city, state, or country. Trouble is the same everywhere. The letters read as if they came from your next-door neighbor, and they might have. Or they might have come from Australia, South Africa, or Spain.
There is a voyeuristic quality to the letters, but what is that voyeurism except a chance to learn? Reading each letter is like sticking your hand into a box of unknown contents. When you confront the letter writer's problem, you learn what the box contains, and consider how you might deal with it.
That is what advice is all about—turning the advice over in your mind and deciding if it makes sense to you. You decide if it touches you or not. You decide if it really offers help, or if it is just the same old thing with no understanding behind it.
That is how you determine the quality of the advice giver.