When not to listen…

For a few years, now, I’ve been thinking about what it means to take advice from “experts” in books (or in any medium for that matter). My husband was the one who first pointed out that whenever I read a self-help book, whether on how to train dogs or how to overcome shyness, I take it wholeheartedly as God’s honest truth! I’ve been aware of this tendency and have tried to keep an open mind whenever anyone gives me advice (for example, I need to start using wrinkle cream to “preserve” my looks!) or whenever I hear about a scientific study “proving” that dogs actually have emotions (gasp! Horror!).

In the past few months, however, I’ve really started considering who is considered an “expert” and how much damage could that person possibly do if he/she gave bad advice to lots of people. For example, a friend of mine from out of state asked about local museums. I told him about a great one in Greensboro, to which he replied that this other museum had been voted #1 on a travel website. “That one?” I was confused. The museum he’d mentioned was okay but kind of boring, and I told him so. “But it was voted number one!” he exclaimed. “But I’ve been there,” I said. “It’s just okay.” He ended up going to the boring museum, trusting the guidance of the website over that of an actual person who had been to the museum. No harm done. He liked it.

But that got me thinking about how much trust we sink into just about anyone who is published. A famous author wrote a few years ago about studies that show older children do better in their academic careers if they are a little older than their peers, and now a generation of parents are keeping their five-year-olds back, waiting until they turn six to start school. A famous actress (not a doctor or even biologist) says that vaccines are causing autism, based on a study done years ago that has been disproved. Now, scores of parents are refusing vaccines — I wonder what the long-term effects of that will be! And a National Book Award Winner writes about depression — he states at the beginning of the book that he’s not a doctor — with the air of an “expert,” citing facts and studies but obviously he can’t cover everything that’s ever been written about depression. After reading the book, I’m left feeling more hopeless and depressed than ever!

My point is just what my husband told me years ago — don’t believe everything you read. Don’t take it as “truth.” Read from lots of sources and talk to people, experts and everyday people who have experienced depression or dog training or who have a child with autism. Studies can show just about anything, depending upon who conducts it and who funds it, who interprets the data. Maybe all this is obvious to you, but I have to keep reminding myself — just because someone is famous or has a PhD or went to Harvard or has an English accent or has won the National Book Award doesn’t make him/her holder of the world’s TRUTH. And, maybe just as important, trust your gut. Don’t take it from me; go out and find out the truth for yourself!


5 thoughts on “When not to listen…

Add yours

  1. Hi Louisa.

    Great Blog post. I know what you mean it’s easy to trust the advice of people that are considered informed. However it’s always important to look at the advice in-front of you and then go looking to see if it’s backed up or not. So at the very least oneself can see all sides.

    I think over the years I’ve become the opposite to trusting. I find I need to see all side and then look again before making my mind up, When it comes to reviews I also sometime find I would rather try say a book that has not many good review, because I like the sound of the book than dismiss it because others disliked it. I rather find out myself be other right or not.

    However there also comes a times when you’ve done all the research etc that can be done and you have to pick what to trust and what not to, I think going with how you feel about things is most of the time the best way to be, At least if you make a mistake it’s yours and not something someone or thing has made you feel is right and then it turned out not so right for you.

    I hope you and your dog are well.

    Take care Hun.

  2. Hi Katie,
    Thanks for reading my blog post, really appreciate your feedback! Yes, I think you are exactly right — look at all sides of the issue and then make your own mind up about it. I never thought of myself as that trusting, but when you put it like that, yes, I see what you mean about automatically trusting people’s opinions, advice, etc… I think you have a good system going! I agree about reviews — I also like to look at the “bad” ones because then you can have a feeling for whether the reader just didn’t like the book, or if there are really big issues with the writing. At least, that’s one opinion. As you say, you don’t really know until you read the book yourself and make up your own mind! Thanks again, and have a great week!

    1. Hi Louisa

      It was a really interesting read.do think it’s always good to see all side before making your mind up. I never been the trusting kind all ways asked lost of questions and over thought things. But it’s true that sometime it’s easy to feel trusting of someone opinions more so they seem to know what they are on about, Yeah I go by my system of looking into thing and seeing it as a whole before believing one thing or the other.

      I agree I read the bad one too it does give you an idea of how other found it, And if the book has lots of writing errors or not. But for me if it’s a book I’m drawn to I will read it regardless so I can see for myself. Beside I do also think that people see different things in every thing so something one person con’t stand another person might love.

      I hope you have a lovely week too. 🙂

  3. Thanks again, Louisa, for a thought provoking post. When to trust and when to not. It’s so difficult to know, especially nowadays when we feel less and less able to trust those who we entrust with looking after our laws etc – I just heard that the judge in the Oscar Pistorius case has said he is not guilty of murdering his girlfriend and can’t believe it. Ultimately we have to trust ourselves but that isn’t always easy. When it comes to our writing, I suppose the more we peg away, the better we will get at judging if what we have written is for the waste basket or posterity 😉

  4. Good point, Marianne! As writers, we have to trust ourselves to know what’s best for our own work. Editors and reviewers can offer educated opinions, but ultimately, only we must trust our own voices!

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