Unsolicited Advice is Rarely Appreciated

I recently received an unsolicited e-mail message from a man named Chris.  The message stated:

I watched the “video for International Networking Week and… I found it personally offensive and amateurish.  I just thought you would like some feedback.  Consider that when you make your presentation on the Today Show [next week].”

OK, so I should begin by saying – I don’t know Chris.  I’ve never met him and have never talked to him.  Why he would feel compelled to send me such a ‘pleasant’ communication, I can’t fathom.

However, I am thankful to Chris.  I’m thankful because his e-mail message gives me an opportunity to talk a little bit about relationship networking.

Every time you communicate with someone (especially the first time) it is a chance to construct or deconstruct a relationship. This is the first time I’ve ever heard from Chris.  I’d have to say that “first contact” wasn’t very constructive.

I’m not sure what possesses people to send unsolicited criticism to someone they don’t know.  But it seems to be happening more and more in this digital world.  I can’t imagine that Chris would have the chutzpa to say this to someone if he were face-to-face with them.  However, the digital world is ripe with cyber critics who can say what they want and feel more removed from the situation via the internet (it’s possible that being outside striking distance may have something to do with that).

I went back and looked at the “offending” video.  Since Chris didn’t specify what “offended” him, I have no idea what was said that was so offensive to him.  As for “amateurish,” well, I understand that opinions are like noses, everyone has one (that’s the G-Rated version of this saying).  Despite knowing the opinion thing, I thought I should look at the video again closely.  It was shot by a professional videographer.  It had multiple camera angles, professional lighting, and even makeup (maybe that was offensive to Chris?).  I’ve had people say that this video was a bit “artsy” with the cutaways being a little distracting.  Some people didn’t like the switching between black & white and color.  At least those comments were specific and constructive.   But, amateurish – really?  I thought maybe this guy had some amazing website that would put my video to shame so I checked it out.  Ahh, rather than go to the dark side, let’s just say I wouldn’t refer him based on his website.

Here’s the bottom line:  if you want to succeed in life, make your own business better and be sparing in the way you criticize others.

I know, I know, some people just can’t help themselves.  So, if you just can’t hold back and you feel compelled to vent on some other poor unsuspecting soul, consider these four things before you press “send” on your nasty-gram:

  1. Is your criticism unsolicited?  Unsolicited advice (especially from people you don’t know – is rarely appreciated).
  2. Do you know the person to whom you’re sending the criticism?  If not, why are you really sending it (other than to get something off YOUR chest and put it onto their shoulders)?
  3. Whether you know them or not – is your intention to give ‘constructive’ suggestions (otherwise known as meaningful, specific, positive ideas) or just to vent?  If it’s to vent – tell a friend who loves you instead and leave the person you don’t know alone.
  4. If you send this communication – will it help construct a relationship or deconstruct a relationship?  If it’s the latter – remember Mom’s advice: if you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all!

No one has ever built a statue to a critic.  It’s easy to tell other people what they are doing wrong.  It’s hard to do the right thing yourself.

Have you ever had this type of experience?  If so, what did you do?  What would you add to my list above?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.


19 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice is Rarely Appreciated

  1. Yes, I’ve had something similar recently.

    Having spent a considerable amount of time & money having a new website commissioned, someone recently ‘had a go’ online saying they hated websites that made companies appear to be much larger than they were.

    Rather than fire off a quick response, I took the time to explain that my company is in transition – moving from the sole partner accountancy practice it was to the national franchise it is becoming in 2012.

    They weren’t someone I knew, but had just assumed it was ok to publicly post their ‘professional’ opinion.

    With the openness of the web it is very easy to check out critics and their credentials.

  2. I know how you are feeling. I think it’s just comes with being everywhere.

    When your avatar(that small profile image) pops up on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and on blogpost comments, and we can watch you on Youtube and hear you on podcasts, you are putting your self out there. Doing that you are shortening the distance between you and your followers. They will feel like they know you. And thats the beauty of social media.
    So when I’m getting mails with unsolicited criticism I know I’m doing the right thing. With that in mind it’s very easy for me to tacle and respond politely.

  3. Reminds me of the quote, “If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” It’s too bad people don’t stop to ask themselves those questions before they speak (or in this case, type). This fast-paced age we live in not only allows, but encourages, people to say whatever useless thing pops into their heads. The art of being alone with one’s own thoughts and thinking through the consequences of our actions has gone by the wayside.

    I think you responded quite well by not reacting defensively to his comment. It’s wise to actually LISTEN to criticisms, learn from them what you can without getting defensive, and discard anything that isn’t relevant. In this guy’s case, it’s ALL irrelevant, but it gave you great fodder for a blog post! So he needs a silent “thank you.”

    I agree with Lars’ comment that because you are a public figure, everyone feels that they actually DO know you, even though you don’t know them. That seems to encourage people to say things on the internet that they’d never say in person.

  4. Tells me more about Chris than it does about your video presentation skills. What a low opinion he must have of himself.

    I wonder with a lone voice how much influence he would have on your reputation even in this very public age? It certainly would drive traffic to his website but maybe not with the result he wants.

  5. This is so true – we all (at times) criticize others without knowing them. I know we need to build the relationships and then give Constructive criticism to help them improve and not criticize to tear them down.

  6. You are a wonderful diplomat and seem to always find a way to send a message to your readers that helps send an important message. I always look forward to your posts. Keep it up and the Today’s Show spot was fantastic.

    Enjoy the journey,


  7. Not only is it not appreciated but it’s almost always disregarded.

    Unsolicited advice destroys your credibility with a person…. I mean that it bankrupts you of relationship equity as you touched on.

    Great post as usual. Thank you Ivan 🙂

  8. Oh, I see unsolicited advice everyday and usually it is the “take it off your chest” deconstructive criticism from people that don’t know each other’s.
    I have a very good “ailment” for that – Words do not hurt me. I tell that so frequently that people know it is worthless to try it with me. This is true; I see that kind of unsolicited advice as exactly a gift I choose not to accept. I have long seen that we seem to live in a chain of “taking off my breast” and hurt you, and then that person needs to unload the misery unto another and so on. I refuse to take part.
    I liked your article Dr. Ivan Misner, it was straight to the point.

  9. I saw the video and volunteered to show it at our meeting. Not sure what all the fuss was about from that individual. My guess is that he is negative when he gets up, stays that way all day and goes to bed with negativity. I am enjoying my association with my chapter (3 months now). BNI has so many resources to help it’s members. I spend lots of time listening to Podcast and learning more about networking.

  10. I admire how you turned a negative experience into a positive opportunity to teach. Unfortunately, “trolls” are an inevitable part of success. I work in video and some days it seems “everyone is Scorsese.” I don’t think you need little ol’ me to tell you to keep doing what you’re doing 😉 Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

  11. I have actually sent unsolicited criticism to someone before, but they had actually sent me an unsolicited email first. I didn’t know the person, but they managed to accidentally send me a very important email regarding the urgent specification and sale of some communication equipment instead of to their client/prospective… Oops!

    After I helped them out with that… they had a little message at the end of their email explaining how they could recommend other credible businesses from their networking group. However, they were saying to prospectives to use their referral system instead of a *particular* directory. In the UK, that could get you into a fair amount of trouble. I tactfully helped them reword their message with a few pointers. They were grateful for my help… but did this interaction take place because of their original huge blooper? You betcha! I knew what cards I was holding, because I had already done my best to be positive and help them retain their credibility with their customer. Who would dare tackle a little niggle about an email footer otherwise? Not me, that’s for sure.

    I guess we all get a little devil on our shoulder sometimes.


  12. Thank you Ivan for a timely subject. You do have the knack of taking a negative situation and turning it into a learning example for those hungry for the knowledge. Appreciate your blogs, pod-casts, and videos very much. Cheers!


  13. Just goes to show a manager I once had. was right. He told me that the most important thing in business is a sense of humor.

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