In the last few days I rediscovered this post from Another Angry Woman via someone linking to it. I don’t think I shared it at the time, but it helped me understand how even well-meaning advice can be spectacularly unhelpful.
I’d recommend reading the whole thing, especially if you identify as male. However, the main takeaway for me was to ask if the person wants advice. Most recently, for example, I enquired if someone was “just venting or would like advice based on my experience”. They replied they were just venting.
Remember Clippy from Microsoft Office? You’re just trying to write a letter, and this insufferable little paperclip is popping up constantly with his vapid googly eyes and awful eyebrows and that fucking condescending smirk and his horrid little bendy body and oh god the colour of that speech bubble, like slightly worrying vaginal discharge, and the “it looks like” why is it so passive aggressive why- Sorry, I lost myself there. In short, Clippy was an irritation, and you’re giving someone’s notifications tab the vibes of using Word in 1997, which nobody wants to go back to.
There is a gendered element to this, too. Mansplaining is something which most women on the internet have experienced fairly frequently. It is exhausting. It is patronising. It is the background hum of patriarchy.
You might not personally be mansplaining. Maybe you’re not even a man. But those who have been on the receiving end of mansplaining are sensitive to it. Your attempt to help can come across as mansplaining, and throw you straight into the draining and exhausting pile.
When someone is not asking a question, they probably do not want advice. This means, you have not been invited to give it. Your advice is not welcome. No matter how much you think there’s a solution to their predicament or they could do things a little differently, you’ve not been invited to share your advice. So don’t.