The name of this section is a joke from way back when at the beginning of Whippet, because I was like, “I’d love to do an advice column!” but then I just didn’t wait for people to tell me their problems.
Unsolicited advice is obnoxious but tempting, but there is a very easy trick which is: take an additional five seconds to ask “I have some advice on that, if you’re looking for it” and wait for a yes/no answer.
Recommendations are advice, you’re literally advising that they watch/listen/read something.
There is a weirdly common type of unsolicited recommendation that I get: I say/tweet “I’m really happy with my current provider of [coffee/cloud storage/jeans]” and people respond with recommendations for coffee/cloud storage/jeans.
WHY. STOP THAT.
I’ve literally just said, “I am currently not looking for coffee/cloud storage/jeans.” I am in that moment, the person on earth who is least likely to welcome recommendations for those things. You would have better chances randomly replying to any other tweet in your timeline, no matter how irrelevant, or calling up a stranger, because they might have a 0.000001% chance of being interested, where I am, in this moment, a dead 0%.
I do actually know why people do this, it’s because you also have a provider you’re excited about and they reminded you of it, and now you want to talk about it.
Thing you could do instead: Just talk about why you like it, instead of recommending they use it, in the same way you might talk about different movies you like.
I have to reiterate that I really do understand the urge to actually recommend though — whenever I read an amazing book, I desperately want my friends to also read it, as well as any strangers, because I think there is no way they won’t find it as amazing as I did. But living in a society means that when you get an urge to say a thing, sometimes you have to stop yourself from saying the thing.
But listen, there is no shortage of communication outlets these days: if you are on any social media at all, in a group chat, or speak to anyone face-to-face or on zoom, you can just say, apropos of nothing, “I tried this great provider of coffee/cloud storage/jeans today, here are the reasons it was rad.”
So you don’t have to totally resist the urge to give unsolicited recommendations, you just have to take a deep breath, pause, and find a more appropriate outlet.
(And then you will probably get unsolicited recommendations for that exact thing you don’t need recommendations for, I’m afraid. Who will be the one to break the cycle?)
Anyway, next time you really, really want to give someone unsolicited advice… I was going to say, “decide if it’s more important to you to give the advice, or to have a warm and positive relationship with that person” — but you don’t even have to do that! You can just ask first!! Sorry I’m so mad today!!!
(PS If you think I’m specifically calling you out, I’m probably not, it’s happened like 5 times this week and is also a thing I have definitely done in the past myself.)
This piece was originally published in The Whippet #134 – subscribe to get the next issue in your inbox!
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