Bad advice abounds in our day and age. Supposedly the Information Age, our time could more aptly be called the Mis-Information Age.
Germans have a reputation for precision and accuracy. I find this to be true…especially in communication. While I lived with my husband (a German) I learned a lot.He helped me see many times how unclear my communication was to him. When I thought I was giving clear instructions, I was actually giving bad advice.
For example, once I told him I wanted more affection. He said, “I don’t understand.”
I said, “What don’t you understand? I was pretty clear.”
“No, I do not know how much more affection you want and I do not know what is your definition of affection and I don’t know if you want it from me or someone else. Please tell me more clearly and I will do it.”
So I told him. “I want you to hold my hand when we are sitting together, give me a hug and a kiss whenever you are leaving or just returning, …” and the list went on. After that, he did what I asked.
Maybe because of the time I spent with Germans or because I am a Virgo (persnickety anyone?), or because of my career choice… I have an obsession with quality control in communication (it’s not just a job it’s a way of life!) I am always a little offended when I see poor quality information (bad advice) on how to be successful and happy.
Facebook is fun for sharing pictures and promoting events, but for life advice it is often pretty worthless.
Take this list put out by Lifebuzz trending this week as a recipe for happiness. “30 Things to Stop Doing”. Right off the bat there is a problem. If we have a habit of acting, perceiving or relating in a certain way, we are not going to be able to simply stop it. It is a double-bind to tell people they need to stop doing 30 things in order to be happy. Not to mention ridiculous!
Focusing on what to ‘not’ do only makes people think about that thing that they are not supposed to do. For example, if someone says to you, “Stop laughing.” It only makes you laugh harder and harder. In fact, there is nothing more funny in this world than laughing when you are not supposed to be laughing! (if you are laughing right now then get ON with your bad self!!) 🙂
What we actually need is a positive statement about what TO do. Something that is sane and kind and respectful to human error.
“Take it up a notch.”
“Ramp it up.”
All the above are nonsensical requests. In fact, they don’t even qualify as requests. Just like my request for my husband to be ‘more affectionate’ was not a request, but an unreasonable demand, until it was more clearly stated. Then it grew up…into a request.
In order to understand what TO do instead of the thing (bad thing) that we are supposed to stop doing we must have clarity about what we are actually doing. What if someone tells us to ‘Stop laughing’ and we were actually not laughing in the first place. Then we would spend a lot of energy preventing the laughter that wasn’t even actually happening! Talk about a colossal waste of time!
Here, I am going to give substitutes for some of the suggestions on the ‘Stop Doing’ list.
1-“Stop spending time with the wrong people”. How about this instead, ‘Create a barometer for feeling good, hang around people who put you at a ‘10’ or higher.’ Now isn’t that a much more clear, do-able prescription? Because my mentor created a chart measuring patterns of aliveness and passion I have a barometer already. I ask myself easy questions like, “how confident, encouraged, supported, light-hearted do I feel after an interaction with this person (these people)?” If I feel pain, that is not a ‘10’!
2-“Stop running from your problems”. Well this is just silly. I don’t run anywhere, especially not from problems. I prefer biking or in-line skating 😉
But seriously, does this mean I should seek out problems…and charge at them? What if I don’t know what my problems are? Here is my suggestion, ‘if I feel icky about something that has happened or is happening, I will make a note and acknowledge it to myself. When I have an opportunity to speak with a trusted (and clear-thinking) confidante, I’ll explain what happened and ask for clear feedback about what I am doing that works and what I am doing that does not work…and possible steps for cleaning up if clean-up is needed. I’ll be willing to listen to the feedback as long as it is clear and kind…and not designed to injure me.
“Stop putting your own needs on the back burner.” And “Stop being scared to make a mistake.” And, “Stop trying to be someone you’re not.” Were a few others from the list. All three of these have the exact opposite effect than what they are saying! In fact reading these make me feel very uneasy and intimated. Afraid to do something wrong!…which makes me suppress my own needs…and furthermore pretend to be someone I’m not! Help!
I hope after reading this, you are at least willing to start questioning ‘advice’ and begin to search for accuracy and usefulness in the suggestions you receive. Before you decide to take Facebook advice (unless it’s from my page, of course ha!), please make sure it is good advice, and, that it actually applies to you.
In the movie, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” about corporate deception and greed and the spin cycle organizations are capable of, writer/director Morgan Spurlock defines the word ‘factoid’ or, a fact that is not true. The ‘enlightening’ missives I am referring to are full of ‘factoids’. Here is a very popular one, “The very definition of insanity is repeating the same actions, over and over, expecting different results.”
Well if you have a dictionary you can easily discover that this is NOT the definition of insanity. This was actually one of Albert Einstein’s loose interpretations. It could more accurately be said, “The very definition of unreasonable expectations is repeating the same actions over and over expecting different results. But Einstien was a genius so I guess if you are a genius you can make stuff up and people will believe it.
What makes me sad is that I meet people every day who say, “I have been working on improving myself for so long now and I’m not getting anywhere.” Unfortunately, they were not using the most effective tools for the work they were doing. So they were not actually doing very effective work. And when they are unsuccessful they blame themselves, when they should be blaming the misinformation that was guiding them.
There is some great work out there and some great practitioners in the personal development and business coaching field, but there is also a lot of goofy stuff that doesn’t work or even make sense. It is a shame when this substitutes for real work. When in doubt, ask yourself if it is clear, if it is useful. Then try it out to see if it works for you. If it does, it’s good work!