This column is part of Advice Week, Slate’s celebration of all things advice.
Everyone likes to give advice. But not everyone is ready for the job; after all, we are not all Dear Prudence. This leaves us receivers sifting through the good and the disastrously bad to come up with nuggets of truth.
Well, take heart, we’ve done that work for you. We’ve collected the best and worst advice we’ve received (hoping you don’t make our own stupid mistakes). You might learn a thing or two from our wisdom, like how to escape being a homework mole or make friends with the parents at school. Start your new year here, (largely the same but slightly) new.
Your parents know best
In my first year of college, I went abroad to instigate a breakup with a boyfriend. Soon after, I found out he had started dating someone else and called my mom in tears. I told him that even though he wasn’t the love of my life, I didn’t see how I was going to find anyone else; I already knew “everyone,” and there was no one else who could be a match for me, even in the imperfect way that he was.
My mother was not convinced. He asked me how much time I usually spent with this boyfriend in a normal week when we had been together. He then asked me to imagine all the new people and things I could discover about myself and the world now that I had this time to myself. “You never know who will come out of the woodwork and surprise you,” he told me. And she was right. A year later, I met my partner. —Elena Schwartz, Senior Producer, What Next
“You can always turn around.” My father’s advice when he taught me to drive. The idea was that I should never rush into a turn or take an exit in a way that would require a risky maneuver and would have to wait for another opportunity and turn around. No metaphor here, it’s really just about driving, and it’s probably saved my life many times over! —Jenée Desmond-Harris, dear Prudence
When I started going to parties in high school and generally hanging out in situations that would allow me to make potentially worse decisions, my mom started reminding me frequently, “Don’t be silly.” While it’s far from prophetic, this stuck with me and still pops into my head in situations where I might be thinking about acting like, well, stupid. —Hannah Mae Morris, Associate Director of Marketing, Slate Studios
It’s a world of runners
“Go to a running shoe store to buy running shoes.” I learned this on the high school XC team. Don’t go for a regular run in your old gym shoes and try to find a deal online. Go to a specialty store, where a salesperson watches you walk and then gives you a bunch of options and you can see how they feel. Yes, it might cost a little more than if you were picking out shoes on Amazon, but the experience of a human being, who can look at your body shape and talk you through options in real time, is invaluable in making running comfortable and sustainable. .
This tip, which I’ve learned time and time again, applies to more than just running shoes. A dermatologist will give you better skin care advice than the internet. Yoga with Adrienne is great, but if you practice regularly, it’s worth it to get feedback on your form and answers to your questions in an IRL class. A simple blood test ordered by your primary care doctor is better at determining what vitamins you should be taking (if any!) than a test or even a scientific paper.
Of course, experts can have blind spots and be wary of snake oil salesmen. But in an age where we’re inundated with health and fitness product recommendations and WebMD-type articles, paying a little for a real person’s informed opinion on what will help your body it can be invaluable. —Shannon Palus, Senior Editor
Don’t try anything new on race day: It’s one of the most well-known pieces of advice in the running world, but it’s easy to panic before the race because something isn’t right, that you need a longer (or shorter) warm-up ). ), or to break in the new super shoes, or to try out the cool new fuel. Just ignoring all these thoughts and doing the usual almost always works best. —Bill Carey, editorial director, strategy
A bit of friendly advice
This is a tip that came to me late, so I want to share it here because I think it’s really good! One of my closest friends, Jessica, has kids older than mine, so I always go to her for parenting questions. My daughter is in fifth grade and has had some social challenges with her friends; nothing too wild, but jealousy and power struggles have really come to the fore this year. (I’m talking about a “girl group” here, but I’ve heard from other parents that these things are common across genders.)
What I asked him was: mothers. During the seven years my son has been at his school, I have developed friendships with the mothers of his friends. The children are the main bond between us—I can’t say that these relationships would have blossomed any other way—and that was a good thing! Or it was for many years…until the kids got older, made decisions about who they liked and who they didn’t like, and didn’t always get along. (I say this gently; there are often tears and stomach aches.) Each pickup becomes uncomfortable; Dropouts are like a game of frog trying to avoid the parents of the kid who told a lie about yours or kept her up at night. It stinks! I asked Jessica what she should do about it, especially since kids are old enough that parents should only step in if it’s actual bullying or physically dangerous behavior. How was I supposed to deal with these parents who were friends, but now not because mine and their son have a problem?
“Oh, that’s easy,” Jessica said. “Don’t ever befriend the parents at school. Just don’t. You can start over with a clean slate when I go to high school.”
This may sound harsh to parents of young children, but honestly, I think it’s great advice and plan to follow it in the future! —Hillary Frey, Editor-in-Chief
I once asked my friend and colleague Shannon Palus to help me draft and she told me to delete this really long thing I had written and just say “Okay!” Now, whenever I’m not sure what to say to someone, in all kinds of situations, I think if “okay!” would be appropriate, and often is. —Heather Schwedel, writer
“Is there at least one thing you like about this place?” I think about this advice from a former therapist all the time. He asked me this after I impulsively moved to a small central Illinois town in the midst of a pandemic, shortly after a gloomy Zoom graduation. I kept hearing dispatches from friends who were moving across the country and building their lives in the cities they wanted to live in. Meanwhile, I felt like I was an isolated narrator watching me go through the motions in a village walled with cornstalks. . At the time, I thought it was a silly question and didn’t give him an answer. But I came to understand it as a case for using your imagination. Sometimes you can’t change your life, at least not in the way you’d like. But there’s usually something you can like about where you’re from. (And you might find there’s a lot to love about a site if you let it.) —Paola de Varona, senior editor, tips
Exaggerated clichés and Brita filters
I’ll share a piece of bad advice I got from one of those “happiness” podcasts, probably around 2015. The advice was something called the “one-minute rule,” which states that any task that can be completed in one minute . it must be done at that time. To be fair, I think this tip is useful if you’re deliberately trying to fix a specific problem. For example, if you’re bad at responding to your mom’s texts, maybe try responding right after the text arrives instead of putting it off.
But when you apply the rule to everything, your life quickly turns into a frantic game of spot-on tasks. The one-minute rule will become an excuse for procrastination as you respond to every little thing that crosses your radar. In cases where you need to complete a task that requires a lot of time and concentration, I suggest you do the exact opposite of the one-minute rule and ignore all non-urgent topics until you’re done with the most important. . Then move on to the other stuff when you can. it will be fine —Cameron Drews, podcast producer
The summer before I left for college, my childhood friend and I met a current college student while volunteering. My friend asked this person what advice they were giving me in this next chapter. “Well,” said this person, “I’d take a Brita filter with you.” This was definitely a sensible recommendation, it’s generally nice to have clean water. However, for where I was in life, that was akin to telling a grizzly bear that it could try a nose trimmer. There was a lot I needed at that age, namely more therapy and some perspective. But somehow, I appreciate this person’s restraint. Although I still don’t filter the water. —Cleo Levin, Public Engagement Editor
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10 years ago at my sister’s engagement party, I put out a box and papers and pens for the guests to “leave advice and wishes for future ladies and gentlemen.” More than half of the papers said something about never going to bed mad or angry. Instead, stand and fight.
I thought and still think it’s the worst advice! It makes a lot more sense to sleep on something and wake up refreshed and in a reasonable frame of mind to resolve an argument rather than wasting time arguing. After a volatile fight, my partner and I wake up with a mutual understanding that the fight was stupid because we were either exhausted or lacking the energy to come to a logical agreement. —Molly Gallager, Senior Director, Programmatic income
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