Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is It Unsolicited Advice Or Teaching?

Have you every had this experience? 

You're at an SCA event working on a project when someone, out of the blue, tells you, "There's a better way to do that. You should do it this way. 

It wasn't a competition or a class. Just a conversation. I've seen this happen more than once. 

Frustrating. Irritating. (I know. It took me years to not snap when someone did that to me.) 

Even though the person giving the unsolicited advice is probably trying to help, it still hurts. 

What would you do? Bite your tongue and walk away mad? Reply angrily? Your have choices:

  • You can ignore the advice and continue as you have been.
  • You could give their suggestion a try. See if it works for you.
  • You might take their advice and put it to regular use.

I try to listen to the offered idea, test it and decide if it helps in some way. By listening, trying, and honestly considering the idea you keep your options open. 

(My daughter would tell you, I'm big on keeping options open. I think I made too big a deal of them as she was growing up.)

After consideration and maybe some historical research, you could decline. It is too expensive. Or it wouldn't have been done by your persona. Or something else. But you actually tried it and made a decision.

You've accomplished more than you realize by listening, trying, then deciding.

Why? Because one size does not always fit all. What works for one person may not work as well for someone else. (You!)

These same three choices also apply if you ask someone's help.

Once the person you ask for help gives you their idea you could ignore it. But then why ask for help in the first place? So listen well, try the suggestion, and make an honest decision.

Now, if you are in a teacher/student relationship can you ignore suggestions? 

Maybe sometimes. With strong reasons and good communication. If you ignore too often you may find yourself minus a mentor. 

A good mentor may accept listen-try-decide, but you may be ask to show-and tell how you came to your decision. (Which means you are no longer ignoring things.) 

I expect students to follow this approach because I don't know everything. But, I want to discuss concepts and reasons with them. Why?

By teaching, whether in a class or as a mentor, I link my self to that person. If they tell someone “Mistress Jehanne taught me ...” I want the student to be as good or better than me. If something is amiss I want to know about it. Perhaps it is my teaching method, but I want to know. I want to make things right.

I find listen-try-decide is a useful tool to keep things calm and still progress in learning. It fits well into most social situations, not just the SCA. And when someone gives you unsolicited advice, you know just how to handle it. It's a good place to start.