Monday, July 2, 2012

Free Advice (Don't)

Originally published June 2007. It's been tweaked before republish.

Free advice is worth the paper it's printed on.

Don’t give advice to people who don’t ask you, especially partners who you don't know extremely well.

Unless they are paying for your advice, few really want to hear your "constructive feedback" on their dancing or appearance.

Most people will resent you for pointing out areas they need to improve, even if your advice is “perfect” for them. While I can give you some advice for free, most people won’t listen to me until they are paying for my point of view.

How many times have you heard someone saying nasty things about their best friend, sibling, spouse or S.O., and then ten minutes later practically get in a fight if someone else says the same thing? I can tell someone my sister/wife/mother is an, “ugly, blood-sucking parasite, not worth the space she takes on earth”. But if you say, “she should consider a different hair style,” those are fighting words.

If someone asks me for advice, I find what I like about their dancing or appearance and highlight it for them. You can find something good about everybody. We are all a work in progress and when I hear a lady likes the way I spin her or the way I lead a certain move, I am encouraged and continue to work on improving my dancing.

It’s easy for me to be a critic and find areas you can improve, but most of the time it’s just not helpful for me to point out your weaknesses. When I’m in the club sometimes I think I’m in an alternate universe because a third of the guys are dancing off the time or otherwise ignoring the music. Do you think I’m going to break the news to them? NO WAY!!! They don’t care what I think, the ladies with them are having fun (or pretending), and they are there for social activities, not to impress me.

Am I qualified to give decent advice on timing? Absolutely! It’s one of my strengths, but that still doesn’t mean they want to hear it from me unless they are paying for that advice.

NEWS FLASH for some guys: The club is generally the wrong environment for teaching!

So the general rule is: Don’t give advice unless you’re being paid.

There are some minor exceptions to this rule. In my "Friends Don't Let Friends Dance Big" article, I mention you should let your friends know if their dancing is turning people off. Here are a couple additional points you should consider:

1) If someone specifically asks for feedback, or you two are working together on something (practicing moves, working on patterns from a class, etc.) then it's fine to discuss details for improvement. That's a mutual agreement and works fine IF you are respectful in your presentation.

2) If they are your close friend, you SHOULD tell them if they are dancing too large, too wild, they have bad breath, or if they should try a different deodorant. Nobody else is going to tell them, and as the song goes, "That's what friends are for..."

3) If you must give advice: do it discreetly, unless there is an immediate accident waiting to happen. Don’t do it in front of others, but rather in the rest room, on the drive home, outside the club, or during a break where others can’t hear you.

Many people don’t want any feedback but occasionally as a friend, you need to do it. They may need to hear it from someone close to them, in private, without the rest of the world watching or listening.

That is totally different from "helping" or "advising" a partner out on the dance floor, without their consent. I know you're an amazing dancer/instructor and could really help them, but keep it to yourself until they ask. Then give them 10% of what you think they want to hear, and wait for them to ask again.

Most really wanted to hear you say, "Wow, you continue to improve," rather than hearing your real advice.

For anybody but your closest friends; leave the advice out of social dancing!
All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!
-Lucy Van Pelt, Peanuts

1 comment:

  1. Ha ha! Wish I had read this before going out last night!
    Whoops! Never mind!

    By the way great blog (I think you will find most salsa blogs are addictive and people reading this now will be reading for a long time!)


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero