It's very easy to spout information....but we are drowning in information these days. We don't need more information. What we need is more people LIVING and MODELING the beliefs and knowledge they have, not more people telling others what they "should" be doing if they want to be healthy and happy. Sharing knowledge with others is great, and something we should all be willing to do, but let’s not forget example is really where it's at.
The fact that most people these days are all too willing to tell/sell someone else information before they have even allowed it to sit incubate and produce fruits in their own life; brings up the very important question, “How do you tell if someone is really knowledgeable on a subject and has personal experience with it, or if they are simply spouting facts that they read online yesterday and have no personal experience with/connection to?
So how DO you tell if someone’s advice is worth considering in this world so full of advice?
The only way you KNOW is to ASK QUESTIONS.
Ask more questions people! It's not rude. It's wise. The world is full of people claiming to value nutrient dense foods who don’t value it enough to actually prioritize eating that way themselves, and only value healthy eating enough to give you advice. It is laughable, but insanely common. The “business” of health, has taken the natural medicine/health world by storm as well, and so many bloggers, teachers, and “coaches” are all too eager to convince people to pay them for their head knowledge BEFORE the information is allowed to actually change the teacher’s own life.
If someone tells you something, they recommend WILL change your LIFE, but that thing isn't important enough in their own life to prioritize spending large amounts of time on themselves? That is advice you shouldn’t give a second thought to. Doesn't matter how many "facts" they have to back their recommendations. If it wasn't meaningful enough for them to incorporate into their own life, or do actual research and devote their own time, money and attention to, then it isn't very meaningful information to the person who is sharing it. Therefore, it should be treated accordingly by those who receive it.
People do not value information they do not choose to live out in some way in their own lives. Passing on information that isn’t valued is rarely helpful to anyone. This doesn’t mean that a practitioner has to use every supplement or recommendation they suggest to their clients themselves, but the persons giving the recommendations needs to be actually invested in their own advice for it to be helpful and effective.
Advice givers need to be spending large amounts of their own time, or energy, money, etc., on the topic they are sharing about, and actually be invested in some way, or else the recommendations are of no value for the person they are trying to help. Recommending herbs, supplements, diets, exercise, etc. to someone based on internet research or memes on Facebook alone is disrespectful, and downright dangerous. The number of recommendations I have heard from well-meaning people trying to advise their friends without having nearly the amount of information needed, is sad. I’ve seen hundreds of examples happen in front of my face where people were recommending a supplement or herb to someone else, but they aren’t aware the substance they are recommending has a direct, quite severe contraindication. They aren’t aware of that contraindication because the few hours of internet research they did on the topic never mentioned that charcoal will interfere with blood pressure medication for example. But if a person is not invested in their own advice in some substantial way, they are putting others at risk, or at a minimum likely to mislead someone. If someone is offering to teach you how to get more nutrition into your diet, but they buy and eat predominately pre-made food (no matter how organic or vegan).
1. Do not have the knowledge on what makes food truly nutritious,
2. They do not have knowledge of how food loses nutrition and how pre-made food affects the cells drastically differently than fresh made from scratch home meals;
3. They don't care enough about nutrition to actually change their lives, habits, and eating.
Either way, this person who is claiming to be knowledgeable about a subject and encouraging you to take their advice, (by deciding to teach a class or giving unsolicited advice) isn’t actually DOING what they claim to be teaching, or doesn’t have the foundational knowledge of food preparation and nutrition to understand the topic they are teaching/advising on. So why would you want to take advice or classes from a person who either doesn't know, or doesn't care about what they claim to be teaching? If healthy eating hasn’t benefited and changed your life enough that you make it an ABSOLUTE priority on a daily basis, why should I believe healthy food will change my life? Passing on information we haven’t fully integrated into our own lives can be a quick way to make a few bucks on desperate people, but in the long run it does little to nothing to actually help make the world a better place. We need examples and people who are brave enough to ONLY speaking out about what they are absolutely passionate about in their own lives and daily practices, rather than simply regurgitating information they read yesterday as if it was actually meaningful to them personally in some way.
If I am going to teach you about how to truly have a nutrient dense diet, or how to heal a nervous system that has been severely damaged; do you want to just hear what I read about it, hear what I did “one time”, or “what my friend tried and it worked for her”; or would you rather have me be able to explain exactly HOW I go about packing every bit of extra nutrition into my diet on a daily basis and what that looks like in my real life? Do you want to know what I read online about herbs and how they heal the nervous system, or would you rather know which herbs I used myself, researched and harvested for years, how they helped heal my nervous system, and what that looked like in my daily life over the period of multiple years? Would you rather me repeat that elderberries can help your cold because I read something about it online, or would you rather me suggest elderberries because I have thoroughly researched them, their benefits, their potential dangers, their chemical components, their growth patterns, and how the berries affect the human body? I know which I prefer!
Few people allow information and lifestyle changes to sink in deep enough to really take root, before they try to start convince everyone else that their information or lifestyle “WILL change your life!" or start teaching classes on the subject.
We are all constantly searching for better ways of doing things, easier ways to live healthy, etc. We have boatloads of information online at our fingertips and friends at every corner trying to sell us a supplement or give us advice on whether or not we should vaccinate our children. In all this searching for the information we need to live our best life, it's easy to get distracted by a lot of "shiny" things, promises, confident sounding advice, educated sounding teachers, etc., and waste a lot of time chasing advice that was never actually practiced or used enough to really know if it was worth having in the first place, before it was quickly passed on to the next person.
So how DO we navigate this world that is so full of advice givers and so lacking in people actually LIVING the truth they claim to value? The absolute best way I have found to sniff out people who are all too willing to pass along advice as if it's tried and true, when in actuality it was just something they read last week is to: Ask Specific Questions.
A few questions I find very informative, and that often reveal immediately if the person claiming to have knowledge on a topic actually truly values or has actually embodied what they say they value/believe are:
1. ”How long have you been doing _____________ (using lavender oil for burns, or whatever they recommended to you) on a daily basis, and what were the immediate and long term benefits you saw of taking/doing that?"
It’s easy to recommend something to someone, it’s harder to actually articulate how you have personally used it, and how it benefited you.
2.” How long have you consistently worked with or researched that plant/food/modality and what areas did you see it improve in your life.” Or “Do you have personal experience with this product/book/method/etc., that you are telling me about, or is this something you have only heard/read about.” Similar to the first question, but more focused. Sometimes people will say they have been doing something for 25 years, when what they really mean is, they did that thing a FEW TIMES 25 years ago. Asking about the consistency of a habit or suggestion in the person’s life giving you advice is a very helpful tool to get more specific information that can help you decipher whether this information source is one you wish to trust at this time. It is very easy to use language that implies you are talking from experience, when you are really talking solely from a place of book knowledge, but a simple question like this can cut to the chase and give more info on whether the person is actually knowledgeable on the topic, or merely just sharing without experience. “Have you read the book you are telling me I should read?” “Do you practice sound healing regularly for your own health or do you just practice on others once in a while?” etc. Direct, very specific question can really cut to the chase.
3.” How many hours have you spent researching this topic?”
This is a question many people are a bit too shy to ask, but it’s one that can be very enlightening if answered honestly. Be especially watchful of generic answers to specific questions. They are often a sure sign that the person does not have the education or experience necessary to answer honestly.
Example: “How many hours have you spent researching activated charcoal and its effects on medication and nutrient absorption?”A generic or nebulous response that should be a red flag would be something like, “I’ve been researching health and wellness for most of my life.” (notice the lack of specificity about education/experience around charcoal specifically) or “Oh I don’t even KNOW how many hours I’ve spent, too many to count.”
Both these answers are deceptive. I’m not saying someone who answers like this is TRYING to be deceptive, but it is a dodge of the question none the less. A person doesn’t need to know specific answers to a question like “how many hours have you spent researching this?” but if their answer is dismissive of the question, and simply tries to reassure the receiver of the advice that “I do know my stuff” without any actual transparency about their education and experience, that is an answer that should bring up major red flags.
An answer like this shows more honesty and integrity: “Hmm… great question! I don’t know exactly how many hours I’ve spent researching activated charcoal, but I can tell you I’ve read several books on it, and have used it successfully for myself and my family/animals for over 15 years. I don’t know every single medication charcoal can interact with, but I do know that caution needs to be taken when using it around birth control, and several others…”
An answer like this reveals a willingness to state what knowledge the advisor does have, while also acknowledging they may not have all the facts on the subject.
4. ”How many hours have you spent practicing this practice/cooking this way/making this art/doing this healing technique/meditating, journaling, and actually DOING the thing you are telling me about, etc?”
Again, similar to question #4, but this question asks how much time is being spent on the actual practices or activities not simply how much reading or learning or education went into a suggestion or class recommendation. Question #4 probed to see if there was education and research behind the recommendation; this question probes deeper to find out if the suggestions being made are actually practices this person actually values deeply, and prioritizes in their own daily life, or if it’s merely a thought they have no personal connection with and decided to share with you. It’s truly incredible how many people view themselves as having regular healthy practices simply because they KNOW about the practices and know they help; but then when actually questioned about the amount of TIME they allot to these so called “important” healthy living practices, the truth comes out that there isn’t much time allotted towards those things at all compared to the 24 hours we are given every day.
If something is valuable enough to a person that they spend large amounts of time in their everyday life to make it a priority? Advice coming from that place is always of a totally different, much higher caliber than advice directing you to make something a priority that the advice giver doesn’t even deem important enough to allocate their own time towards on a regular basis. And, while I will gladly take advice from someone well education on liver failure, who has never experienced liver failure themselves, if someone is neither educated OR experienced on a topic, this is a red flag.
Asking questions like these is not so much about getting the “right” answer from an advice giver that will determine whether their advice is sound or not. Rather, the answers given to these questions reveal a teacher or advice giver’s validity by giving you a chance to observe their reactions when their advice is questioned. What does their body language, confidence levels etc. tell you about how comfortable they are with the information they are trying to give you. Any teacher worth their salt LOVES to be questioned. Anyone who discourages or dodges questions does so only because they know they do not have the actual information or experience themselves to be able to go deeper than just surface advice.
Any time someone is giving you advice, ESPECIALLY unsolicited advice, make sure you don’t just nod and smile, but instead throw a question or two in there to give you a good idea of how seriously the advice should be taken. Even if you weren’t considering taking the advice, because you don’t trust the source; still, try and throw a few questions out to put advice givers on alert that you aren’t about taking advice unless there is something valuable backing that advice.
The questions above or other specific questions you can come up with on your own depending on the situation you find yourself in, can reveal a lot about an advice giver/teachers knowledge and motivation for trying to educate you on any given topic at any given time. There are a lot of motivations for people sharing information, giving advice, or teaching classes, (getting praise or attention, being a hero, “helping people”, making money, the list goes on) and only a small fraction of those motivations come from a simple pure desire to spread the most clear, most effective information possible to the people who need it most. This doesn’t mean other motivation to give advice are BAD. It simply means there are other motivation then simply providing the best information possible, and that must be recognized.
The other great type of question to ask is a contrasting question. This presupposes that you know a bit about the topic being discussed or have experience with the product or service being suggested; but if you do have knowledge on the topic, it is a great way to see if someone is simply regurgitating advice/information they read online or heard somewhere, or if they have actual knowledge, experience and education on the topic.
A contrasting question is when you take the recommendation being made and contrast it with another recommendation. For example: Someone asks you how you are feeling as you check out in the grocery store. You explain you have a hormonal migraine, but other than that are having a pretty good day! They immediately launch into how lavender essential oil is super good for headaches and tell you, that you need to put some on your temples.
Asking a question at that point like:
"So do you find lavender more helpful than feverfew or frankincense for hormonal migraines, or do you think they work about the same?”
A question like this REQUIRES the person giving the advice to have an actual opinion on how things work compared to one another, and often quickly reveals if the suggestion was just a repeated meme they saw on a Facebook page, or actually comes from experience or education on the topic. Anyone who regularly deals with migraines themselves or helps others who regularly deal with migraines will immediately be able to respond in an intelligent and helpful way to a question like that, even if they don't know the actual answer to your question.
A response like "Well I haven't tried feverfew, but I know for me the lavender helped more than the frankincense oil, and _________, or ________ that I tried."
If the person has no personal experience with the issue they will be stumped by a comparison question, or at a minimum offer a less than insightful comparison and try to be very vague in their answers such as: "Well...yeah... they can ALL work well for migraines really..… Just depends on the person, everyone is different right? Anything is better than drugs though… So I just thought you might want to try lavender, cause I KNOW it’s really helpful.”
Responses like that simply show you a more accurate perspective of the knowledge base the advice giver is coming from. Responses that don’t include personal experience like WHY they know Lavender will help your migraine, are key red flags that advice givers are passing advice along that has no attachment or rooting in their actual life, education, or experience. There is no reason to say, “Oh I KNOW this will help you,” and NOT follow up with HOW you know it will help, or WHY you know it will help. (ie. experience) So pay attention just as much if not more to what ISN’T said, as to what IS said in response to your questions.
True teachers LOVE to be questioned. That’s when they come alive and get to share their deep passion for the topics that are nearest and dearest to their hearts. And most humans jump at the chance to share a bit more about their passions with someone else who is also interested in the same topics or struggling with the same issues they have. So, if an advice giver doesn’t respond with excitement to having their advice questioned, BUYER BEWARE of that advice!
All in all, seeking out advice from people you know, love and respect is always the best option rather than searching online, taking advice from well-meaning strangers or acquaintances, or even asking many self-proclaimed experts for their advice. But sometimes a piece of advice gets offered to you by a stranger, sales clerk, new massage therapist, or health food store worker and it sounds promising or hopeful, but you don’t really know if it’s something to put much stock in, or just one of those passing fads, or an outlandish cure all claim. And in those situations, asking a few of the above clarifying questions can quickly help decipher if the advice is coming from a place that should be considered and respected, or just from someone sharing something they heard.
As the information age continues to ramp up, it behooves us more and more to be our own advocates, be discerning, wise, and not waste precious time chasing limp advice being passed along by well-meaning people who simply don’t have the full spectrum of knowledge or experience needed to be effective. And in this crazy time we are living in full of “Do as I say, not as I do” type advice; let us personally guard against the lure of dispensing advice to get an ego boost, or sense of satisfaction from “helping” someone else, and reserve our (especially unsolicited) advice for things that we truly have a grasp on. The time of the “knower” is almost over, and the time of the “doer” is here. Let’s be doers, not talkers. Let’s give advice wisely and carefully. Let’s encourage questions and lets not be quick to assume someone knows what they are talking about simply because they have a snazzy website, or teach classes on a subject. Let’s be wise as serpents and harmless as doves and take our own health seriously enough to question all the advice that pours in around us every day. We truly are the masters of our ships. Let’s chart our course carefully and base our directions wisely on the advice of those who have traveled the same way before, not those who simply saw a map once and feel they now have valuable input on how to direct us where we are going.