Sunday, September 14, 2008

Extracting Irrelevant Expertise from Expert Advice

Did you ever have a friend or co-worker who professed expertise on a topic they were clearly not proficient at themselves? For instance, I once had a friend who would constantly give me advice on how to “work out.” He would often come over to my apartment to hang out, and talk to me while I lifted weights, and then make little critiques about what I was doing wrong. And this so-called “expert advice” was coming from someone who never worked out, did any kind of aerobic activity or ever lifted a weight. In fact, the only reason he even had a membership to the local gym was so he could go sit in their steam room and exfoliate.

But that didn’t stop him from pointing out all the various things I apparently was doing incorrectly. Or instructing me on the best methods for curling or bench pressing, or any number of other body building techniques, all of which he obviously never practiced himself. And whenever I questioned him about this, he simply said that he didn’t enjoy working out any more, though he used to do it all the time. Of course this was way back in college when he and his fraternity brothers would go to the gym every day to get ready for the weekend’s big “Mixer” with a neighboring sorority. And though it’s been maybe twenty years since his love affair with physical fitness, he still felt it necessary to regurgitate all that acquired knowledge on me all these many years later. (Yeah!)

Then there was the co-worker that always wore one of those buttons that reads: “Want to Lose Weight? Ask Me How.” The button was a not-so-subtle advertisement for her other business venture—a diet weight loss program that she sold on the side to earn extra income. And though I’m never averse to losing a few pounds, I certainly would not take my advice from a woman whose physical appearance reminded one of a giant Gummy Bear. Round, cute and cuddly, with the jiggle of Jell-o.

But before anyone takes offense, I am not trying to make a joke about losing weight. Or even of people who are overweight. I know that losing weight is not an easy task to accomplish, even under a doctor’s care. And some people have medical conditions that prevent them from losing as much as they’d like to. So I know it’s a touchy subject matter. My point is, if you had to choose a sideline business to make some extra money, why not choose something you might actually look credible selling? I mean, I wouldn’t buy a hair restoration product from someone who’s bald, because he’s not a living example of the product he’s pedaling. (And no, I am NOT currently looking for a hair restoration product. That was just an example.) Anyway, the same is true with weight loss products. If you don’t represent the “miracle” product you’re pushing, perhaps you should be investigating another option.

Another example of an obnoxious expert is a certain female family member who was a stern advocate of strict discipline when it came to child rearing. And even though she was unmarried and had no children of her own, that never stopped her from giving her married sister with children all kinds of advice on what she was doing wrong when it came to parenting. “You have to break their will,” she would tell her sister any time one of the children got sassy or threw a tantrum. “If you don’t do it now, they’ll be totally out of control when they’re older.” And like they say, Karma is a bitch. And now that she’s married with two boys of her own, she does everything she can to avoid dealing with them at all. And as for “breaking their will”…well, let’s just say, that these boys might be considered perfect examples of being “totally out of control” when they’re older.

And finally, the biggest offenders of this type of hypocrisy (and here’s where we take a little turn toward a more serious tone) are those extreme religious organizations whose hateful and discriminatory actions belie the teachings of their supposedly loving and forgiving God. To me, anyone who calls themselves a Christian should try to act like one. And not just when they’re doing some kind of charitable work, but also when they’re dealing with their fellow human beings. And for fear of instigating some kind of exhausting religious debate, that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

But that’s just me. Do you have any “experts” in your life that drive you crazy with their lack of expertise?


Matthew S. Urdan said...

Many...especially people who advise on how to tip or reward great service. But that's a whole blog series of its own.

While you're at, go ahead and upset the religious apple cart. If you can do it in a respectful way, you'll generate dozens of comments.


Roxy's Best Of... said...

Nekked Harry Potter, eh...enjoy that! Thanks for stopping by Roxy's Best Of... with your flattering comment. I'm going to whip you up a blog just in case you'd like to post once in a while.

All the best,

Roxiticus Desperate Housewives said...

Your posts are always soooo good! I've seen all of your examples live and in person (except the hair restoration one), particularly on the child rearing front. I have a particularly fond memory of the one friend (who I can't seem to throw out of my circle) who thought I should send my at-the-time-4-year-old to a child psychologist because I frequently had to discipline her during play dates, while the "advisor's" nasty twins ran wild and could have used a little discipline, if not electroshock therapy!


Lux said...

Mom grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family. Nuff said. ;-)

Great post ... said...

Will Rogers once said, "We’re all ignorant, just on different subjects."

Maybe that's why we have so many "experts" in the world!

As for those religious Christians who "do as I say, not as I do", I believe it comes from living under The Law, not under Grace. They probably go to a church where outward appearance and behavior is emphasized.

Many people fall under this trap, and don't realize it. It has taken me years to gradually over come this way of thinking.

And now, I'm perfect! Ha! Ha! Ha! (But don't tell that to my wife!)

Grr, Midnight & Cocoa said...

My ex-husband constantly lectures the kids regarding the terrible eating habits I've allowed them to adopt. At my house it's no red meat, lots of fruit and vegetables, and whole grains whenever possible. However, he believes chips are a lunch requirement and eats from fast food places almost every day - usually ordering 2 double cheeseburgers and fries. We've all learned to just ignore him. He's also a Jehovah's Witness and bestows all that knowledge on the entire neighborhood. ::sigh::

DanBrantley said...

Since an expert is defined as someone who drives more than fifty miles to give advice: has a great poster about experts titled: "Consultants" it reads "If you aren't part of the solution, there's good money to be made prolonging the problem."

desperateblogger said...

you just described some of my "friends" and in-laws.

Henson Ray said...

Matt--I did try to tackle this "issue" recently with an allegorical poem I wrote called "The Legend of the Magic Bowl." However, either no one understood it, no one liked it, or no one read it, because of all the posts I've done recently, that is the ONLY one that did not get one comment. And I think I was being respectful...but making my point in a round about way. (Or perhaps it was TOO roundabout and that's why no one commented.)

Roxy--That's right. Nekked Harry. It will be the event of the season. And you are just too good to me with the I still am amazed where you find all the time. A true Renaissance woman!

Roxy 2--Yikes. I never understand how people can find a fault in others that they never seem to recognize in themselves. Isn't that called "projecting"?

lux--HA! You made me laugh out loud with that comment. And I mean that literally...not just a lol...but a real big guffaw. I can only imagine the stories you must have.... like you've allowed yourself to progress as a human being...and I applaud you for that...even if your wife might not agree! Heh, heh.

grr, midnight, et al--Sounds like you have it tough...although the thought of you and your kids probably rolling your eyes every time he begins one of his lectures is a very funny could make a very funny sitcom out of the premise. Or at least a one act play.

danbrantley--Excellent point. Thanks for sharing.

desperateblogger--there's a few in every crowd, I guess.

Jenn Thorson said...

"Break their will"?! Oh dear. What did she recommend this involve-- Chinese water torture? Bamboo under the fingernails? Hours of the Teletubbies?

Just curious. :)

Sounds a bit like she learned from the Joan Crawford School of Childrearing and Closet Rearrangement.