Fucking Shitty Advice

I have previously gone on at length about the frustrating inadequacy of the advice that professional advice-givers put out, but let’s do something different today. Let’s talk about the advice you get from your friends and family (assuming you have any). It’s generally pretty bad, isn’t it? It sure is.

I don’t generally hold this shittyness against lay advice givers, for these two reasons:

1) Almost everybody alive tends to underestimate the complexity of other people’s problems, so their solutions tend to be simple and therefore unhelpful.

2) Most of the time, when the person your talking to is giving you advice, they’re not really trying to help you as such; mostly, they just want you change the subject.

If that second reason sounds harsh, I’m sorry. Let me explain what I mean a little bit, and we’ll see if that helps. Okay, we all have problems, right? And sometimes we want to talk about them with people that care about us. However, this often makes the people we’re talking to very uncomfortable. More than anything, they just want to talk about any other topic that doesn’t make them feel so bad, and in that moment they will do whatever they can think of to change the subject without seeming like an uncaring asshole. That’s where shitty advice comes from.

The problem is we (that is, the people who want to talk about our problems) aren’t looking for advice. Maybe the problem we’re having doesn’t actually have a solution. Or, maybe it does, but we already know what it is, and it basically boils down to having to do the most difficult thing you’ve ever done in your life. (Things like, “exercise more,” “lose a bunch of weight,” “get more sleep,” “learn to read other people’s body language better,” “stop being so negative,” “cheer up,” “put yourself out there more,” “be more vulnerable,” “get a better job,” “move out,” “dump him/her,” “go into therapy,” and so on. All things that seem simple to people for whom these things are easy, and who therefore can’t understand why other folks don’t just do those things, and won’t believe you when you tell them that, actually, their advice is almost impossible to follow when you’re unhealthy and/or unlucky.) At any rate, we just want to vent, and maybe feel cared for and empathized with.

Sometimes we just want someone to listen to our story and then, with great compassion, respond by simply saying, “I’m so sorry. You’re hopelessly fucked, you can’t fix it, and I’m sorry.”

That’s an impossible thing to ask of somebody, isn’t it? Because most of the time, when someone tells you you’re fucked, it’s usually not compassionate — it’s a cry of frustration. “WELL, I GUESS YOU’RE SCREWED THEN, EH? MIGHT AS WELL JUMP OFF A BRIDGE THEN, I GUESS, RIGHT?” The people that care about you don’t want to risk coming across that way, most of the time. (Though that quote is, in fact, something that one of my parents said to me at one point.)

We give (and get) shitty advice because we want to change the subject, we want to move beyond the request for commiseration that makes us uncomfortable, and we’ve never learned how to agree with someone that they’re just fucked in a kind, loving, compassionate way. So, what’s to be done?

I don’t know. I don’t know how to teach people about this, or how to make it better. I’m so, so sorry, but we are, all of us, completely fucked on this one.

 

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Fucking Shitty Advice

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