The poor advice you are receiving every day


Each day, ‘words of wisdom’ are shared on social media. This advice is often well liked by audiences — receiving agreeable comments and ‘likes’. On the surface, what could be wrong with the sharing of wisdom? Don’t be fooled, you should be concerned!

In the never ending pursuit for your attention, poor advice disguised as wisdom is hitting your social media feed everyday!

Although shared with the best of intentions and appearing on the surface as wise or inspirational, much of this so-called wisdom is is misguided. Some advice is so toxic, that if followed, could even do more harm than good!

I am writing this post to provide some practical ways that you can stop poor advice from needlessly playing havoc with your life!

So, let’s look at some of the advice in question.

I have noted three ‘broad flavours’ of poor advice whose formulas appear to be reoccurring on social media.

The Bear — I may look cuddly, but I swear I will tear your business apart

The problem: Although this advice may appear sensible and ‘humanistic’, value creation in business involves more ingredients than simply people. Although we may agree that people matter, stretching this idea to say ‘people are everything’ to business success is misguided and if followed, potentially hazardous to a company’s bottom line or even business survival.

The Chuck Norris — Take no prisoners, anything can be solved through brute force

The problem: The incorrect assumption behind this statement is that change can only happen in tangible forms. However, change starts with ‘the mind’ — by challenging and shifting our assumptions about how the world works. This introspective process must happen before behaviours and actions can then follow. Therefore, when we talk and challenge each other, we can make important progress toward change. Just because this change may not be visible doesn’t mean that progress hasn’t been made. This advice, therefore, may sound as practical as Chuck Norris, but also may be as destructive.

The Puma — Supposedly a powerful and impressive creature, but no one has ever seen one… do they really exist

The problem: Besides its obvious shallow values alignment, the flaws in this advice hardly requires explanation. It is a critical thinker’s nightmare! Putting ‘questionable statements’ together with other more reasonable statements (such as dream big), doesn’t make the entire package of advice any better. Such frivolous advice acts to deceive the less critically minded audience about what success is. In my opinion, this advice does nothing more than sell superficial values and delude those who are ‘cognitively vulnerable’.

So what?

The purpose of this post is to raise awareness about the value of critical thinking. Critical thinking techniques help to ensure that we adopt only quality advice and discern when to discard others. However, to form the required habits for utilising critical thinking methods in everyday life takes practice.

How to make yourself ‘wise’ against poor advice’

Poor advice has always existed in society — individuals have had to determine for themselves what is worth believing.

The best way to do this is to hone your critical thinking radar by practicing reflecting on critical thinking questions that are designed ‘to test’ the quality of others’ arguments.

Example critical thinking questions:

What are the underlying assumptions of the advice?

What is the purpose of the advice?

Does the advice take a singular or balanced point of view?

Does the advice make reference to facts or statistics from a reliable source?

Does the advice rely on any theory, laws, principles or concepts of note-worthy reputation?

What inferences or conclusions have been drawn to form the advice?

What are the broader implications of following the advice?

Now what?

So, next time some so-called wise words appear in your social media feed, try sorting the wisdom from the trash by using critical thinking techniques.

Unfortunately, no one will ever know all the harm to people’s lives poor advice creates each year. Because of the vast connectivity of social media, accepting the wrong words of advice ‘as wisdom’ without using critical thinking, can not only harm your life, but also your friends too.

What examples of dodgy words of wisdom have you seen on social media lately?

This post has been written by Marcel Wilson, the Director of Human Sparks. Human Sparks is an Australian company providing business performance, change management and organisational effectiveness solutions.

Title Photo credit: Flickr — Hartwig HKD