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Why Unsolicited Advice Is a Terrible Idea

Yes, I appreciate the irony in writing a blog post about unsolicited advice that could be read as unsolicited advice.

I’ve been playing around with the idea of never giving anyone any advice that they haven’t asked me for, though, and I thought it would make a great topic for a post here while I’m adjusting to the idea of keeping my mouth shut until or unless I’m asked for my opinion.

Perhaps someday I’ll revisit this topic once I have more to say about it? For now, let’s talk about why giving people advice they haven’t asked for is a terrible idea.

 You Don’t Have All of the Facts

Everyone has private parts of their lives that are only shared with very few people or maybe even no one else at all. It could be as simple as a soothing bedtime ritual or as complex as an uncommon hobby that they only discuss with others who have also devoted their free time to perfecting the art of underwater basket weaving.

The parts of someone’s life that others see  almost certainly don’t give a full picture of who they are or how complex their problems – or their perceived problems –  really are.

Sometimes what looks like a banana isn’t actually a banana after all. (Also, I love this picture in and of itself. Isn’t it interesting?)

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

I’ve seen this happen multiple times with various friends of mine who are living with serious, longterm mental or physical health problems.

No sooner do they mention having a particularly bad day or dealing with a troublesome, new symptom than someone else will jump in with a half-dozen suggestions for how they should fix their disease once and for all.

Yes, they’ve tried all of those cures already. No, that random Internet article isn’t going to magically fix deep-seated health problems that have been bothering them for decades and that have been treated by multiple doctors and other healthcare professions over the years.

I’ve only ever had this happen to me briefly once or twice, and even that made me irrationally angry. I can’t imagine what my friends who must deal with possibly well-meaning but ultimately wrong and judgemental assumptions about their bodies over and over again go through.

What works for one person can fail miserably for another even if they’re both dealing with similar circumstances or diseases.

 It Doesn’t Work

Advice is only useful when the person receiving it is open to the idea of changing. It’s not like a vaccine that will protect someone from dangerous diseases regardless of what thoughts flutter through their minds while their immune systems are learning how to recognize and destroy inactivated polio germs.

One has to be ready to accept what the advice-giver is saying in order for it to have any hope at all of working. Changing your personality, habits, and/or current situation is such a difficult task that there’s no other way of going about it. Anyone who isn’t motivated to keep going even if they don’t see any results right away is almost certainly going to give up long before any of the work they might have put into their current personal project has had any chance at all to fix things.

Unwanted advice also doesn’t work well for adult relationships in general. When someone who isn’t in an official place of authority over me tries to control what I do or how I live, I feel annoyed and confused. If they continue to do it over a long period of time despite being asked to stop, I slowly begin to share less about my life with them.

Not only does unsolicited advice not work in the short term, it makes me much less willing to listen six months or a year from now if they have something else to say to me.

Rather than prompting me to change whatever it is they think I’m doing wrong, what this kind of interaction teaches me is that they’re not a safe person to confide in. I will often start spending less time with them and guarding myself when I do see them. Their intentions may have been noble, but the results of their poor boundaries are going to be the exact opposite of what they might have hoped for.

Some Lessons Have to be Learned the Hard Way

Not everyone is willing to take the experiences of others as the ultimate truth.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the urge to warn other people about certain types of mistakes I’ve made in the past, but you can’t live someone else’s life for them.

Sometimes they have to find out for themselves that something is a terrible idea regardless of whether it takes thirty seconds or thirty years between their decision and reaping the consequence of it.

The only thing the rest of us can do in the meantime is to respect their boundaries and hope that they’ll learn their lesson as quickly and easily as possible.

Suggestion Saturday: July 22, 2017

Here is this week’s list of comic strips, lists, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

Summer Friends. Summer is about half over now. This is a funny take on one of my least favourite parts of this season. Hopefully all of us will be able to build elaborate sandcastles this summer instead of worrying about this stuff. Ha!

What Your Doctor Is Really Saying via DrCarolCooper‬. For those of you who might not know this, my mom has been a nurse for 20+ years. I’m going to have to ask her what she thinks of this list and if she has anything to add to it.

The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness. Ooh, this was a good article.

Letting Neural Networks Be Weird. This is  what happens when you ask a computer to come up with new proverbs by feeding it a lot of old ones . My favourite new proverb was “A good fear is never known till needed.”

Travelling a Million Miles Away: Nextdoor to Canada via LevRaphael. As a dual citizen, I approve of this message.

Fuck the Law of Attraction via CockAndCrow.Sometimes rants are exactly what you need to get through the day.

The Boys Try Dungeons and Dragons. This sounds like so much fun. I hope these kids get to have many more D&D games in the future.

What Not to Do in a Disaster. Everyone needs to read this link. It was full of good advice.

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What Minecraft Has Taught Me About Mindfulness

Minecraft was frustrating when I first began to learn how to play it. It’s the kind of game that has a steep learning curve, so my avatar died in a lot of silly ways in the beginning.

I am not a big gamer in general, but Minecraft is one of those pastimes that I keep cycling back around to. I’ll play it for several months and then take a long break from it. No matter how long I’m away, though, I always come back to it eventually.

Recently, I’ve started to play it again. The other night I began to think about the lessons this game has taught me as I was putting up a stone fence around the home that some friends and I have been working on.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I got lost in Minecraft when I first began playing it. If you happen to wind up in the middle of a biome, every hill looks the same after a while. This can make it difficult to find your way home before dark when the monsters begin to spawn and the game becomes dangerous for anyone who wants their character to survive the night.

To be honest with you, I’m still not an expert at navigating my surroundings. I have gotten a lot better at knowing where I am relative to home base, though, and it’s much more rare for me to get totally lost than it used to be. A big part of the reason why this is so is because I’ve learned to pay attention to where the sun is in the sky and what landmarks are close to my home.

Even something as simple as a patch of flowers or an oddly-shaped tree can potentially be a clue that you’re almost back to a safe place to spend the night.

Live in the Moment

Minecraft is the sort of game where everything can be peaceful one moment and a life-or-death battle with an army of skeletons the next. You never know what a day will bring to you, but you also won’t progress at all if you spend all of your time assuming that there’s a skeleton lurking behind you.

Sometimes I like to watch videos of what other players have built in this game. The homes I’m able to build at the moment are simple, but I dream of the day when I, too, will be able to build a mansion without using any cheats.

In the meantime, I enjoy the skills I’ve picked up so far. I’m learning new things almost every time I play it, and I see a lot of improvement from where I was as a player when I first began.

Photo credit: Andy Dingley.


You Can’t Prepare for Everything

Just because the monsters usually spawn at night doesn’t mean you won’t come across any of them during the day. One time I was collecting wheat near my home when a creeper (see photo above) snuck up behind me and exploded. My avatar was injured and a piece of the fencing around the wheat was destroyed.

I’d followed all of the rules the night before by going to bed as soon as the sun set. Doing this is supposed to dramatically reduce your risk of running into a monster as they won’t spawn if you’re asleep.

You can’t prepare for everything, though. Sometimes Minecraft and real life throw you curve balls. Accepting that anything could happen at ay moment wasn’t always easy, but it did make for a better playing experience once I started to do it.

Stay Peaceful

Photo credit: Gilda from London, UK.

Like many other things in life, Minecraft operates on a cycle. It has a steady cycle of day and night modes, of course, but it also seems to shift between times when there are many monsters and when there are fewer of them.

The number of friendly creatures in this game seems to change, too. There have been times when I’ve found valleys full of sheep and pigs and other times when it was hard to find any of them at all.

Once you grow accustomed to the ebb and flow of it, it’s easier to accept that sometimes things aren’t going to go your way. A hunt for the sheep that my farm still needs might be unsuccessful today, but that doesn’t mean I won’t find any the next time I go searching for them.

If you play Minecraft, what lessons have you learned from it?

5 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past weekend I tried to remember the first science fiction or fantasy book I ever read. After a lot of deliberation, I believe that traditional fairy tales were what originally drew me into this genre.

Some of my earliest memories about books in general involve borrowing fairy tale collections from my local library. After I’d read all of the sanitized versions of them, I moved on the dark and often gory originals.

My second clear memory of the sci-fi genre was watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were two episodes of that show that I wanted to watch over and over again because of how much they blew my mind: Genesis and Sub Rosa. Before seeing them, I never would have imagined that people could evolve backwards or that an entity could need a candle to survive.

I don’t know how many of my readers are already fans of science fiction or fantasy, but there are several reasons why you should give them a chance if you’re not currently reading them.

They Ask Questions Without Always Answering Them

One of the things I found soothing about fairy tales when I first began reading them is how predictable they were. It was common to have three tasks to perform, a talking animal to guide you on your journey, an old woman who would help or hinder you depending on how kindly you treated her, and a happy ending for everyone who had a pure heart.

It came as a surprise to me, then, to move into older, darker fairy tales where these things weren’t necessarily true. Sometimes the protagonist ended up with the prince, but in other stories she before they could be reunited. As I gradually switched to reading and watching more science fiction and contemporary fantasy*, this unpredictable nature of the plot only grew stronger.

I love the fact that these genres don’t always tie everything up into a neat, little bow. Sometimes the good guys win. At other times, they might lose or the line between good and evil could be drawn in more than one place depending on how one looks at the facts. The open-ended nature of what it means to be a good guy and why bad things happen to good people appeals to me quite a bit.

*See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many other of Joss Whedon’s TV shows.

They Teach You Important Life Lessons

Not everyone is who they appear to be.

Always overestimate how much time you need to do something. It’s better to impress others by finishing it early than it is to disappoint them.

If you’re able to help someone in need, do it. You never know when your fortunes might reverse and you might be the one who needs help next.

Equality is for everyone.

Don’t wear the colour red if you’re out on a mission.

Dragons and old, tired arguments with the people you love must never be roused from their slumber for no good reason.

These are only a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from fantasy and science fiction. I could have easily filled this entire blog post with nothing but a list of the things I’ve learned from sci-fi. It’s not just entertainment. It can also teach you things that will last an entire lifetime.

They Introduce You to New Ideas

The sci-fi genre is the perfect place to explore things you’ve never thought about before and imagine how our world could be different than it currently is.

Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer not only introduced me to the idea that a woman could save the day, they didn’t make the genders of their heroines a big deal.

Xena and Buffy were both too busy fighting monsters to worry about whether or not other people approved of them being heroic. That was something I rarely got to see as a little girl, so I relished those glimpses of worlds where your gender didn’t affect what role you’d play in an adventure.

They Imagine the Best and the Worst Case Scenarios

At various points in my life I’ve drifted back and forth between preferring utopian and dystopian sci-fi stories. There have been times when I’ve craved the hope that can be found in imagining a world where prejudice and many other forms of inequality no longer existed.

Watching Captain Picard and his crew explore the galaxy was magical. Here was a world where your gender, race, and species didn’t have any affect at all on what jobs you were allowed to do from what I could see. Was it perfect? No, but it was whole lot better than our current world.

On the flip side, sometimes it’s interesting to explore a future version of our world where everything has fallen apart. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first six seasons of The Walking Dead was seeing how Rick reacted when every attempt he made to keep his children and community safe eventually fell apart in the most dramatic ways possible. At what point should someone try something completely new? Is it okay to stop admitting newcomers to your safe area once they’ve betrayed you a few times?

They Prepare You For Uncertainty

Will the future be paradise or a post-apocalyptic hellhole?

Nobody knows, so we must prepare for both possibilities. I love the fact that sci-fi is so focused on showing where we’re headed as a species and how small changes in our society today could have a massive affect on whether future generations will bless or curse our names.

A few years ago I underwent some testing for a possible medical problem. (Spoiler alert – it ended up being nothing to worry about at all).

While I was waiting to hear whether or not the abnormality my regular doctor had discovered was actually something to be concerned about, science fiction and fantasy showed me how to exist in that narrow space between health and sickness.

I hope I won’t have to walk down that dark passageway again for decades to come, but I know that my stories will be there to comfort and distract me if I do.