Oblivious advice


Offering immediate suggestions for frustrating problems was among the biggest boyfriend mistakes I used to make; a phrase I never thought I’d say given I was the latest of late bloomers! Sometimes people need to vent, as Clara did when Excel crashed and AutoSave rubbished the file. I could have advised that frequent saving would minimise that happening, but that’s not what someone losing an hour of work wants to hear. They want a hug, a cup of tea, and to share in shouting fuck Excel!

Well-meaning but oblivious advice of this nature is rampant online, and can usually be identified by that magical word just, or the phrase have you considered. The trackpad on your laptop broke? Just use an external USB one. Stuck at home? Have you considered not being depressed? Or my personal favourite from at least 2013: why?

Here are some other forms of what Asher Wolf called unhelpful advice. The first was my suggestion:

  • “It can only get better from here!”
  • “It could always be worse.”
  • “Think of it as a growing experience.”
  • “You’ll get better when you’re ready.”
  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  • “Just apply for anything.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

I refer to these specifically as oblivious advice, because not only do they avoid factoring in anything about the person’s circumstance, they seek to outright ignore it. Even if well-meaning, they’re also logically flawed, and not what people under duress want to hear. Or maybe that’s just me!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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