When is Giving Advice Appropriate?

Just wanted to rant a little here. I’m guilty of this myself, we all are. How many times have you given advice on something you know little about just because you’ve “heard or read something” on that topic?  The great thing is that we WANT to help. But sometimes it can be more damaging than good.

For example today I saw someone post in a vegan support group about having adrenal fatigue symptoms. Someone replied “when I’m feeling tired I just eat more fruit :)” . That’s very sweet but I have a feeling that person knows nothing about adrenal fatigue. Another responder suggested it was a made up term. This struck a cord for me because I spent years living with someone who thought I was faking my illness (Hashimoto’s).  Not sure what the perks are for faking a chronic illness but hey, maybe some people see the benefit in that.

The point is, when you give advice on something you have no personal experience with chances are you’re advice is likely to be unhelpful. And worst yet, telling them it’s made-up is the equivalent to “I’m not taking you seriously”.  In a public forum there is likely going to be someone who has in depth knowledge on the topic. Let someone else chime in or point them to someone who does have personal experience with it.

With today’s technology we have this thing called “information overload” and we end up thinking we’re experts on everything.  Instead we’re only experts on diluted tid-bits of information. That combined with our desire to help can sometimes lead to unhelpful advice.

So when is it okay to give advice? Well that really depends on the seriousness and level of desperation from the person asking.  But in general:

  1. You personally went through the same experience
  2. You are very close with someone who went through it and well versed on the topic
  3. Your post-secondary education revolved around that topic

Thinking back there are many times I should have just kept my mouth shut and instead offered showed them empathy and concern “I’m so sorry you are going through this, I wish I had some answers for you”.


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