1 Feb


Image: Niagara Detroit

What do you call it when you are being critical of the way that someone talks to you? I don’t mean tone-policing, I am pretty sure that this is not that.  I don’t ever want to tell someone they are having conversations or sharing information “the wrong way,” but at the same time, let me tell you about one of my biggest pet peeves.

Let’s say you’re on social media, and you’ve just shared a post about a book you’ve read, a movie you’ve watched, or x/y/z thing you’ve tried or experienced. And then you get someone chiming in the comments to say, “YOU SHOULD TRY BLAH BLAH BLAH.” First of all, who asked you? Ugh, don’t be so annoying! But if you are gonna be that guy, I promise you that there is a better way to do it.

Or…maybe you have actually asked for recommendations, and are expecting comments wherein people will be sharing these kinds of opinions.

But either way (although especially if you have not asked), there is a more palatable way to deliver that information. And then there is, as I mentioned above, “YOU SHOULD/NEED TO/MUST TRY BLAH BLAH BLAH.”

To me, initiating your suggestion like that reads as awfully presumptuous. As if you think I haven’t heard of or already tried whatever blah blah blah thing that you’re suggesting. And that irritates me. It insults me. Maybe I am overreacting? Maybe I think too highly of myself? I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know. When I am offering a suggestion or recommendation, this is what I will do. (And I do this because I’m working with the idea that everyone is, to some degree, as peevish as I am. And I don’t want to irritate or insult anyone!)

If a friend over on Facebook says, for example, “I just read MOTHERTHING by Ainslie Hogarth, and I love it–can you guys recommend some similar stuff that I might love?”

My response will be something along the lines of: “I don’t know if you’ve read Mothered by Zoje Stage or The Push by Ashley Audrain yet, but if you love the domestic horror/monstrous mom/motherhood trauma of MOTHERTHING,  I think you will dig these two books. I’d love to know what you think of them!”

In this example I address right off the bat that maybe they are, in fact, familiar with what I am suggesting to them. I’m not throwing something in their face as if I think there’s no possibility that they have ever heard of these things! I mean–you can understand why that approach might annoy someone, right? As if they could never?? So thank god for me, offering up my pearls of wisdom?
I never want to come off like that.

Or let’s just say that your Facebook friend didn’t ask a question at all. They wrote a post about how they were excited to try a new food. They say “I last week I tried cottage cheese for the first time and I loved it.” And they were not asking for anyone’s opinion on that revelation but you think if you don’t share your experience with that food, you will literally die.

So you say “COTTAGE CHEESE IS SO GROSS THE ONLY WAY I CAN EAT IT IS WITH PINEAPPLE YOU SHOULD TRY IT.” First off, and again, no one asked you. But if you have to say something, why not try something like, “You mentioned that you are new to the world of cottage cheese; if you’re looking for different options and don’t mind a little sweetness, you might want to try it with pineapple–that’s my favorite way to eat it!”

I’m not saying that you have to handle things the way I do. I’m not saying that if your conversations don’t sound like mine, then you’re doing it wrong.

I’m just suggesting that –if you have concerns about looking like an asshole online– you might want to take a look at how you are offering up suggestions.


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Maika says

The scourge of unsolicited advice. I don't care what the topic is or how good your intentions, consent and consideration are everything rather than being a verbal bulldozer.

S. Elizabeth says

Consent and consideration! THANK YOU!

Tess Bookheimer says

I feel seen; I get very prickly about presumptuous suggestions! I have sometimes wondered if this tendency exists along the lines of introversion and extroversion, because as an introvert I assume almost nothing about the depth of someone else’s experience and inner life. But extroverts in my life are very quick to say “this is SO YOU! You would like X thing!” It’s interesting how uncomfortable it makes me!

Elia says

Madam, you are the shit. :) I'm still cackling. LOL
Why mess around when we don't have time for that nonsense?

Melissa Kojima says

I like it. I like it a lot and I agree. This is so diplomatic and I am in absolute favor of it.

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