A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the ICYMI podcast. The topic was related to internet advice when the conversation veered specifically towards unsolicited advice.
Jenny Desmond: And I feel I feel badly saying this because I have the privilege of giving advice. Everyone wants to be heard and be listened to and feel useful. So maybe that’s what it comes down to, is that people okay, let’s do a generous read of it, right? People want to be helpful. People want to connect with others. People want to share the knowledge they have. That said, it is incredibly, incredibly annoying. Also, a lot of people are really bad at giving advice. So if it’s going to be unsolicited, at least make it helpful. If I were to go onto Twitter right now and say, Hey guys, does anyone know where I could get a great hamburger in San Diego? I would have 50 replies saying, Well, it’s actually in Texas, but go here or actually get a taco.ICYMI – What Makes Online Advice Good?
Oh, lawd! This particular part of the conversation resonated with me. I have felt similarly over the years but haven’t found a good way to articulate it. It is in fact incredibly annoying when you share a part of your life, or ask a specific question and someone, who likely under the guise of trying to be helpful, derails, negates, or inadvertently diminishes your experience.
Me: Hey, I saw this cool thing!
Not Me: Yeah, that’s cool, I guess, but what I saw is EVEN COOLER!
Inner Me: Okay, uh, great. So… maybe you should just go ahead and share that on your blog, or whatever.
We are all likely guilty of this to varying degrees. But man, oh, man – I am going to try my best to not continue this type of behavior towards others.
About a year ago, I experienced something similar in offline life. Admittedly I hang on too tight to some things, but this still has me scratching my head about why someone felt compelled to communicate with me in this way.
I was filling up my car at the gas station on a sunny day. I’d been out bumming around, cruising with the top down, enjoying being alive. A guy pulled up to the pump next to mine, took a business card out of his center console and threw it into the passenger seat of my car.
“When you finally replace this with a new one, give me a call.”
And tell you to go fuck yourself? Sure!
The guy was a car salesman.
Something about this exchange just rubbed me the wrong way. I still view this person as a presumptuous dick. The whole shape of the brief exchange suggested that there is something “wrong” with what I have and that I should replace it. I don’t know how to interpret the sentiment with something other than what I see as judgement, or the application of someone else’s values onto me.
I happen to love my nearly 20-year old car! When I look at it, I think it’s beautiful, and ridiculously colored, and I feel quietly proud of it within myself. Plus, it’s super fun to drive. And perhaps most importantly it has immense sentimental value to me. (And gives me rockstar hair.)
This exchange at the gas station seemed adjacent to unsolicited advice. I didn’t ask if anyone in the gas station was a car salesman who could help me in the future. Instead someone else’s unwelcome agenda was foisted on me.
In reality someone else’s opinions about my things, or my posts, or my rockstar hair really don’t matter. But, it doesn’t mean I won’t relish being annoyed 🙂