Why You Shouldn’t Take Just Anyone’s Advice (Including Mine)

Posted 26 October, 2012 by Amanda / 45 Comments

First, let’s discuss what advice is. I’m using the word advice in this post to mean directives (as in, “you should…” or “get rid of…” or “do this…”). This DOES include ranting about something in a public forum. You know, “I hate X, people need to stop doing X.”

Right. Here is the thing: advice is generally born from personal experience and preference. That means whenever someone–anyone, including me–gives you advice (solicited OR unsolicited advice), it may not work for YOU. Just because something works for one person, it does not mean that it will work for everyone. And while this is generally applicable to life in general, I want to talk about blogging, specifically, since that’s what we’re here for.

We all have different motivations for blogging. Even when we have the same motivations, we have different personalities and ways of operating. I can tell someone to keep a blogging schedule, but if you struggle with organization or you tend to just post when you have something, my advice is not going to help you.

Taking advice from someone who has different motivations and methods is a recipe for disaster. If you fail to employ the advice, you feel like a failure. If you successfully employ the advice, you may still be unhappy because it’s not a method that works for YOU. When I receive advice (or read advice being given to the general public), I consider the source. Where is the person coming from? What are the person’s motivations? What is the advice telling me to do? Does the advice line up with my motivations and how I operate?

In other words, I don’t just follow advice; I think about it first. When I give advice, I try to frame it so that people understand why I give it. During Bout of Books, Kelly and I were very careful not to say, “Get rid of CAPTCHA! CAPTCHA is evil!” (Even though both Kelly and I are not fans of CAPTCHA.) Instead, we said that if you are not receiving comments and would like more, consider turning CAPTCHA off for the duration of the read-a-thon because many people refuse to comment on blogs that have CAPTCHA. This is still advice. But we provide motivation: receiving more comments. We provide reasons why: people don’t like commenting when a blog has CAPTCHA. In a way, I’m doing the critically thinking work for you. All you have to do is decide if you want to receive more comments and if turning of CAPTCHA is the way to do that.

Who are bloggers you look to for advice? Why do you take their advice?

Filed under: Discussion,


45 Responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Take Just Anyone’s Advice (Including Mine)”

  1. Great Post!

    I tend to stay away from people that are always trying to tell others what to do. I know that I get very put off by people who think their way is the right way for everyone. It is OK to think your way is the right way for yourself–for shizzle but don’t go berating someone for doing it differently! I have seen a few of these posts around the blogsphere and it irks me.

    I think this is VERY different than doing a post about something that works for you. At that point you aren’t saying “do it my way” but saying “here is how I do it in case you wanted to know”. I love and adore those posts. I think they are super helpful and give you ideas. You can choose to implement all of it, some of it, or just secretly wish you could do any of it.

    So that was my very long winded way of saying I totally agree!

    • I always try to be careful with my discussion posts to make sure that I frame it in a “this is what I do and why it works for me” kind of way. The posts that are like, “This is only/best way you do it,” are a bit off-putting for me, even if they aren’t intended to come across that way. I believe that people should always feel like they have a choice to follow your advice…or not.

      • I think you are excellent at saying here is what I do but not making it seem like everyone should do it! Even when it is something that drives you nuts—you seem to understand everyone has to do what makes them a happy blogger :)

        • I think, for me, it’s understanding that just because something drives *me* nuts doesn’t mean that it drives everyone else nuts too. And some people may actually have a very good and legitimate reason for doing it. I try to respect that.

    • I totally agree Felicia! Which is why Amanda’s method of working with CAPTCHA is so much more effective. Saying why or how you do something in a way that is constructive or illustrative is way better than just handing out some pat list of dos and don’ts.

  2. AMANDA.

    So if I shouldn’t take your advice, I should listen to this post. But then the first step, of ignoring the post is moot, AND YOU’RE BREAING MY BRAIN. IT’S SPINNING IN CIRCLES FASTER A DONGCOPTER O__O

    Uh, seriously though?
    And this is amazing advice that people really SHOULD listen to.
    I take the advice of people I respect and trust. THEY are who I listen to.

    Like you hearts;

    • Ha. Like this, Sarah: If you think my advice is stupid and ignore it, then you are, in effect, taking my advice.

      I always know I’m onto something good when disagreeing with me proves my point. (Same thing with saying the world is subjective: disagreeing with me shows that it is, indeed, subjective.) *wicked smile*

      *huggles you* I also take the advice of those I respect and trust. But I’m actually surprisingly very choosy (or maybe that’s not surprising?) about who I trust. I respect most bloggers on some level. I think respect is VITAL. But trust? That’s completely different. Trust implies a relationship of some sort for me. Or I’ve taken advice in the past and it was good, so I trust that their future advice will be as well thought out. But EVEN THEN, I still think about it before deciding whether it is something that is applicable to me or not.

      • Oh my word. I just re-read what I wrote and me no spell good. But it is Friday night. That’s an excuse, right?

        Amanda, you’re smart, did you know? I mean, not only for being right no matter what (genius, that), but the difference between respect and trust? Oh yes. And trust is something that’s earned. And oh, this book I’m reading right now *sobs* and shattered into billion bloody pieces *runs away crying*

      • I was sent a review copy, unsolicited, and left it sitting for months until a friend made me read it.

        There is one part in the book where I was laughing with tears still running down my face from where I’d been crying. I LOVED it. But I think it’s one of those books that not everyone loved. And it had a very slow start. It was TOTALLY a subjective thing for me. Music is as much a part of the book and it’s make-up as the main characters, and I’m normally SUPER judgy of music in books, but AMANDA.

        We’re talking The Beatles and Crosby, Stills and Nash, and The Doors and The Beach Boys and Zepplin and Neil Young and and and… my classic rock geek had a nerdgasm.

        Seriously XD

  3. No, I am not a fan of CAPTCHA.

    You are so right on this- no one piece of advice is going to work for every person. To have someone assume that their way is the only way makes my head hurt. “My way is the only way! Stamp out individuality! Begin building the clone army!” *scowls*

    I think you know this already but I agree with you. You have to be self-aware enough to try new things, figure out which pieces of those new things work for you, and adapt it to fit your needs.

    *looks around* I kinda lost my train of thought. It just jumped the track and plowed through a cornfield. Huh.

    • Honestly, I think advice GIVERS have to realize when their advice is being given because of a preference. If you say CAPTCHA needs to be eradicated, you have to realize that you think that because YOU hate CAPTCHA and that, as weird as it may sound, some people may actually have a valid reason for using it (and you risk alienating those people).

      Being self-aware is HUGE. Not just in blogging, but in life. The sad thing is that many people aren’t very self-aware. (Being self-aware requires critical thinking, and that is a dying skill despite it being “taught” in schools.)

      • OK, I had this big long rant written on why I *DON’T* think critical thinking is taught in our schools, I think we’d much rather keep kids ignorant (HA!) and teach them what we want them to think, but it was horribly off-topic and ranty and I’M SORRY O__O


        I had CAPTCHA turned on for a good while when I started blogging. And the reason for it is that I work in web development, and it’s common practice when building a form for a commercial client. A basic PHP form on a non-CMS based website doens’t have any SPAM control like WP or even Blogger does. CAPTCHA is it. And you know what? In that environment, it’s fine. A person will submit a form once, and isn’t going to worry about doing it again when you post tomorrow, you know? So I figured it worked the way here.

        I was lucky that people I trust and respected pointed out that CAPTCHA in this sense is kind of silly (it saved me, what, 2 spam comments a month, that Blogger filtered anyway?) and I’m SO glad I took that advice. But I do worry about the new bloggers who have it inadvertently turned on and get kind of lynched over having it on, simply because they don’t know any better…. you know?

        But seriously. I think the way we give advice can affect the way it’s taken, also? There’s a blogger I know who posts blogging tips sometimes, which I always read, but I’m not that likely to take because I feel they come of as slight sanctimonious, if that makes any sense?


        • But I do worry about the new bloggers who have it inadvertently turned on and get kind of lynched over having it on, simply because they don’t know any better…. you know?

          I KNOW! Actually, when Kelly and I talk about CAPTCHA during Bout of Books, we do mention that Blogger automatically turns it off AND that blog authors don’t ever see CAPTCHA. So, it’s like, “Maybe you should check to make sure.” And I know–I KNOW–that we’ve had people say, “Oh, wow, I didn’t even know it was on.” But… that is also important to keep in mind when complaining about CAPTCHA. The blogger just may not KNOW. (Which makes complaining useless, I think, because you’re all, “I hate CAPTCHA, turn it off” and they’re all, “Yeah, I totally agree.” And you’re like (O)_(O) and then CAPTCHA stays on because they don’t even realize it’s on.)

  4. Great post! I’ve given this advice to others many times myself.

    I’ve come to loathe CAPTCHA over time and the only time I will comment is if it’s a blog I’ve already made a connection with and love or if I’m entering a giveaway that I really want to win.

  5. CAPTCHA is definitely evil. No matter how you swing it, it’s just not my thing.

    I totally agree with you! Regardless of the source, people should still take advice with a grain of salt. For example, I would take advice from you, but I would still weigh the pros and cons and see if it fits my own way of doing things.

    Awesome post!

    • And, truthfully, it would bother me if people took my advice without thinking about it first. Yes, I want my advice to be useful, but I think I’d feel worse if someone took my advice and it didn’t work than if someone never took my advice.

      Maybe that’s just me.

  6. I have no idea if I fall into the advice-giving category. I try not to do that because we try not to do it in social work. We want people to figure things out for themselves, with us guiding them. But I am happy to explain what works for me, and I’m always happy to try out advice!

    • Linguistically speaking, even using helping verbs like “should” denote some level of advice being given. So words or constructions like should, might, must, need to, have to, and straight directives (do this) can all be advice on some level.

      HOW advice is presented is huge, I think. If you explain what works for you, you’re basically letting the person decide if your way works for them or not. I’d be much more likely to take advice like that than to have someone tell me, “You should do X, Y, Z.”

      • Well, I definitely agree with that. I think I get caught up in excitement when it comes to reading and tell people they should read the book. I completely get why that language can come off as “commanding” to some. I just need to keep that in mind.


  7. I always ponder advice. Sometimes I take it, sometimes I modify it & sometimes I thoughtfully decline and appreciate the spirit in which it was given.

    And if it was given in a DO THIS MORON kind of way, I cheerfully give them the finger.

  8. You know what they say, advice is like ___holes, everyone has one. I’ve come across many “advice” postings on various blogs and they always seem to be disheartening in some sense. For example, I came across a blog the other day of “how to build your readers”. The author of the post claimed that if you don’t have 1,000+ followers after one year of blogging, you should just quit. Well, I don’t even have 100 and I am nearing the one-year mark. Does that mean I should quit my dreams, quit writing, quit blogging? No. It means one thing worked for him, and something else works for everyone else. I really try to not give out advice unless it’s specifically requested, and I try to take everyone’s advise with a grain of salt :)

    • Personally, I think numbers are very easily manipulated (especially in book blogging with giveaways, GFC, and requiring people to follow to enter/receive extra entries). And yes! Considering I’ve been blogging for about 1.5 years now, I “only” have maybe 200 subscribers. (I put only in quotation marks because the fact that ANYONE is reading my blog is awesome.) I’ve never thought numbers mean much, because I’ve also seen “bigger” blogs receive fewer comments than I do. *shrugs* If you love what you blog, you should keep doing it, no matter the number.

      I’m going to start passing around salt shakers if I write an advice post. ;) I think it’s important, though. Even if you know and trust the person, thinking about the advice before taking it is gooood.

    • I’ve always tried to consider something from someone else’s perspective. Just because I hate CAPTCHA doesn’t mean everyone else will, too. (And though it seems like most people do, I wonder if there are people who do like it, but are afraid to speak up because so many are very vocal about hating it.) I’d hate to accidentally offend someone or make them feel like they couldn’t speak up. =/

  9. This is beautiful. My eyes hurt.

    I just read a post that left me very unsettled. It was practically reducing book bloggers who operate a very specific way. Had I read that when I was a noob blogger, I would have felt like shit, especially since any advice from a “big blog” seems to be the best kind at that stage. At that time, I greatly underestimated pondering on advice before readily implementing it.

    I like that you mentioned the motivation aspect. Rather than just sounding like you’re giving orders, offer an incentive. That’s a very nice psychological approach. If that is done more often, not only will the advice be portrayed in a friendly tone, but it will easier to think through.

    Great discussion!

    • For me, offering advice is like giving someone a choice. I can say, “This is the way I do it and it’s been effective for me and other people.” It would be arrogant of me to assume my way is the only way. I might think it’s the best way (because, duh, that’s why I do it), but it’s certainly not the only way.

      And I do think motivation and reasons for the advice go a long way toward making it easier to take (or reject) the advice. I’m more of an “I’m just going to throw this out for you to consider and if you don’t take it, you’re not going to hurt my feelings” kind of advice giver.