Unsolicited Advice

I feel the need to tell about 99% of the internet something: Your feedback really isn’t helping. And I mean it isn’t helping anyone. It isn’t helping the person you’re directing it at. It isn’t helping other people who see it. And despite the boost it might give your ego to bless others with your “wisdom”, it also isn’t helping you.

I’m not even talking about the “haters” here, although obviously they’re in the 99%. I’m talking about the people who consider themselves fans (or at least supporters) of the lucky recipient of their feedback. They don’t say “You suck.” Most of the time they don’t even lead with “What’s wrong with this is…” They certainly don’t betray negativity to the targets of their insights but what they do betray is their total lack of awareness of (a) the creative process and (b) anyone else around them. To take these two things individually:

The creative process: It is extremely rare that any worthwhile act of creation is triggered by someone telling you what to do. The best creations come into being from within the creator almost because they have to. Creativity is very personal and the path to success tends to be very different from person to person. Truly creative people (or at least those who have an awareness that people besides themselves exist) do not go around telling other people how to do things.

A slight transgression: it might sound contradictory to say someone can go around telling people what to do if they don’t recognise the existence of other people. I’m talking about recognising people as individuals with their own lives, own views and own motivations. Pontificating assumes people are nothing but a faceless amorphous blob waiting for enlightenment from their self-appointed god.

If really pushed, a creative person will share their views but the smart ones will do it in a personal way. “This is how I do it…” “This is what works for me…” This is what drives me…” All of these work far better than “This is what you should do!” This is not only because they are less threatening and didactic and so easier to swallow. It’s also that no single technique works for every person and/or every situation. Your mileage may vary as the saying goes.

It’s great to be inspired by someone you admire. It’s almost always useful to learn techniques. But it’s rarely productive to slavishly follow the dictates of someone else.

Ignoring others: What astounds me most about those who feel compelled to offer their useless “helpful” advice is their inability to see the evidence of their advice being at best worthless, but more commonly, absolutely wrong. Look at comment threads on YouTube videos. It’s painfully common to see people drop their “here’s what’s wrong with your video” comment IN THE MIDDLE OF DOZENS OF OTHERS SAYING HOW GOOD IT IS!

This is where this post stops being reasonable and starts being angry.

For fuck’s sake, how blinkered are these fucking people? Just look at the other comments. JUST FUCKING LOOK! What the fuck is the creator meant to do when they receive waves of positive feedback and then see your idiot comment telling them to change? Just fucking think for a minute! Simple logic tells you the creator can’t make everyone happy when people are giving mutually contradictory feedback. And given that someone is getting positive reinforcement why the fuck would they listen to the gimp saying they’re doing it wrong? IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!

And there is of course the almost constant fact that the people who offer unsolicited critiques tend to not be creators themselves. Or at least they almost never create anything as good as what they’re critiquing. So their critique is objectively wrong or useless. And they are not in a position to reasonably assert that their view is more informed than the creator’s. So what the fuck are they thinking? The obvious answer is that they aren’t thinking. At all.

As a side note, almost the only time I’m likely to listen to unsolicited advice is when it comes from someone who’s better at it (whatever “it” may be) than me. They’ve had more success at a given endeavour or I simply think they’re really, really good at what they do. Funny thing is, these are the people least likely to force their opinion on someone else. If you’re ever lucky enough to get feedback from a talented and/or successful mentor, by all means take advantage of the opportunity. But be very careful about assuming you’re the one who has wisdom to share. If people ignore you, they probably aren’t trying to be insulting.

The simple truth is your feedback is useless.

POSTSCRIPT: I am aware that some people will think that they are clever to point out that this whole post could be seen as self-contradictory. I give unsolicited advice saying don’t give unsolicited advice. You’re not clever, you’re painfully obvious. I’ll make two points in relation to this. One is that what I’m doing here is largely emptying my mind onto a page and I’m not forcing it on anybody. Second, the sort of tiny minded fuckwit who thinks that’s a clever thing to say is exactly the sort of moron who need to wake up to the fact that they have nothing meaningful to offer anyone and should shut the fuck up.

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3 Comments

Filed under General Angriness

3 responses to “Unsolicited Advice

  1. I had a class in uni where the teacher wanted us to share our projects with the class before they were finished so that the other students could give feedback. So basically we were required to open ourselves to unsolicited advice about something that was *still* in the process of being created.
    I am so glad I’m not in school anymore.

  2. Anne

    “I’m talking about recognising people as individuals with their own lives, own views and own motivations. Pontificating assumes people are nothing but a faceless amorphous blob waiting for enlightenment from their self-appointed god.”

    I think THIS is precisely what I hate about unsolicited advice. The givers nearly always tell me things I have either already tried or heard many, many times before, have thought about, and have rejected for good reasons. Their “advice” is never helpful and often plain stupid. Yet they seem to think they’re the first ones to tell me this, or I have not thought about it myself, as if I’m not an actual person with a brain. That’s all on top of the fact that I’ve not asked for their advice to begin with.

    Funnily, when I mistakenly share my frustrations about unsolicited advice with someone I think will understand, s/he usually gives me MORE unsolicited advice. Way to not get it.

  3. Pingback: Creativity and useless feedback

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