We were busy putting away equipment after a recent kickboxing class. It had just been announced that there would be a change in one of the evening class times, making it a 40 minute earlier start than the current 8pm time. A couple of class attendees were busy chatting about the change and they started discussing the problems with such a late evening class.
"I don't like to eat before I come to class because I always feel ill with a meal on my stomach, even if I eat at 5pm," said one.
The other involved nodded along. "I know. I don't like to eat before either, and then it's so late to eat after class that I often go to bed without a meal."
I completely identified with this conversation because it's one we've had in our household on occasion too. It's difficult to workout on a full stomach and it's tough to have energy if I don't eat.
A third person happened into the conversation and stated, "You know, you really must eat both before and after a workout. It's just not good for you to go without." The former two looked up, gave a bit of a stare, and then continued talking with each other.
I could sense the agitation with this intrusion to their conversation, but I had to get about my day and couldn't hang around to see how things ended.
It's easy to do - without even being aware that the "helpful tip" may be entirely unwanted. I don't think I'm a horribly pushy or intrusive person in everyday life, but I have had occasion to see someone riding with a saddle far too low or a person who appears quite stretched on her road bike and I can't help but want to offer my two cents.
Really, like the individual who interjected her thoughts after kickboxing class, I am not an authority or expert and should probably keep my opinions to myself, but it can be challenging when we've experienced the ramifications of the same actions another is carrying out. Most of the time, I will let it go unless opinion is sought, but there are times when it takes everything in me to keep my mouth shut.
When I think about it, we are surrounded by advice we aren't necessarily pursuing.
Five ways to feel more confident.
Ten things you shouldn't eat.
Eleven mistakes cyclists should never make.
The BEST way to get six-pack abs.
Our world is a headline of unsolicited thoughts and opinions about what we should and should not do. It can make it difficult to know when ideas aren't necessarily wanted when we are ourselves continually bombarded with advice we weren't seeking. Of course, when it's an internet headline, we can make the choice to read through the ideas or completely ignore them. It's a lot more challenging to walk away or ignore a person standing right in front of us.
The trouble in my mind with un-requested opinions is that they can lead to the perpetuation of myth, or even cause a person to end an activity.
Without even realizing it, there have been times when I have offered my opinion to someone without understanding that my thoughts were a bit off from reality. It has never been my intention to do so, but when we hear or read something time and again, it seeps into our subconscious and can become a belief, or when we've experienced something that appears to support a hypothesis, it is easier to believe that the familiarity I've developed will be true for everyone, or at least most people.
Beyond this, riding a bike is an activity that ranges from the once-a-summer cruiser rider to the I-live-for-racing rider to the long distance event participant - and many shades of grey in between. Knowing what works for one cyclist does not then mean it will work for all, and offering opinion without all of the puzzle pieces may ultimately do more harm than good.
At its worst, I have been witness to unsolicited advice ending a persons participation with an activity. It may be that the opinions expressed come across as know-it-all-isms and the newbie feels unwanted or like an outsider, or it could be that the advice was wrong for the individual and resulted in damage or pain.
Even as open as I can be to others thoughts and ideas, I am stubborn when it comes to people offering opinion as fact.
Additionally, I enjoy figuring things out for myself, which doesn't mean I don't or won't ask for advice, but rather that learning along the way is part of what I enjoy about new - and old - activities. I've never been one to believe in hard truths one way or another anyway (with rare exception), and I enjoy seeking out my own answers, which often helps me gain confidence and skill.
I am certainly not stating that advice is always "bad" or "wrong," nor that it shouldn't be presented when appropriate, but simply offering the suggestion that it may be prudent to find out if the opinion is wanted or needed before jumping to the aid of another.
I know I would hate to feel responsible for offering ideas - especially uninvited ones - that don't work for an individual, and I definitely don't want to be the reason for ending someones enthusiasm for riding a bike.
One of the great things about blogs, Twitter, forums, and other online outlets is that these provide the opportunity both to share experiences, thoughts and perceptions on a topic, as well as providing the ability to seek out wanted information without it feeling too intrusive or preachy, I think. If I don't find merit in a particular viewpoint, I can look for another until my experiences-to-date ring true with what I'm reading.
For myself, I know that I am far more receptive to advice based on its delivery too. Even online I've read over topics that seemed to come across with a certain level of hostility or in a sharp tone. When an idea comes across as a lecture or in an I-know-more-than-you manner, I can feel myself become hardened to any ideas expressed - whether they are valid or not - which is entirely unfortunate because there is often truth and experience in the information being shared.
How do you feel about uninvited advice? Do you appreciate someone offering it if they think they know a better way, or do you find yourself more on guard with these types of comments? Is your reaction different based on the format in which the advice is shared (such as in person in every day life, or in an online format)? Do you offer up unsolicited advice (online or off)? Is it generally well-received, or do you find that it gets ignored?