This question came about because of a comment someone made about an answer I posted recently. I'm aware that this site deals in specifics but I do feel that the question itself is specific while it pertains to situations generally. Please bear with me while I try to explain.

I was born in the early seventies (I recently turned 46) and so, being a teenager in the '80s and a young man in the '90s, didn't have access to a resource such as Stack Exchange. If I encountered a problem with another person, my options were: 1. ask a friend for advice, 2. read a relevant self-help book or 3. wing it. Imagine this scenario where I'm discussing the issue with a friend:

Me - 'This person really upset me recently. They said some hurtful things. I'm not sure what to do.' Invariably, the advice would be something along the lines of: 'You need to let them know how you feel.'

My friends answer is quite general, but informs me how to proceed. I need to examine how I have been made to feel. I then have a think about how I might articulate those feelings. I would then approach the antagonist, for want of a better word, and tell them what I think.

I see this process of engaging with feelings, articulation, and subsequent confrontation as normal, healthy behavior, which allows me room for growth and an opportunity to feel good about myself for having dealt with the situation in a mature, constructive manner.

Back to 2018! If someone asks for advice, whether posted on here or out during my day to day, is it better to provide a general indicator as to how to proceed, or to furnish them with specifics? I wonder if any other 40yrs+ readers have thought about this; that because of generational differences, the very nature of advice giving has changed? Am I wrong in thinking that the "old" way was better?

  • 1
    Hey! If this question is about how to interact with users here, then it belongs on the meta side of the site... we actually have specific recommendations against putting words in people's mouths (giving them blocks of text to say verbatim or write in an email)... but that's a matter of our site recommendations/policy. If you're looking for how to respond outside of this site, the question is fine here but may be a bit opinion-based, as everyone will have their own idea of which option is better.
    – Catija
    Apr 1, 2018 at 17:05
  • @Catija: thank you. I had reservations about posting that question here because I wasn't sure it was the right place to post it. What prompted this posting in the first place was I have had an answer down-voted for pointing out that "putting words in peoples mouths" is not helpful. However, I assure you my question is not specific to user interaction; it regards the wider trend of advice giving in general.
    – user11728
    Apr 1, 2018 at 17:13

1 Answer 1


You will find that times have changed relative to the 70s and 80s. Back then, we men didn't admit that we felt anything; we just soldiered through it, buried it, and acted like nothing bothered us. It turns out that doing so was really not very healthy at all!

The answer to your question is "it depends". What are they asking for? Let that guide you. Are they asking general questions, or are the questions the kind that SE responds to (specific questions about a specific course of action)? That will help you determine what to say.

Part of counseling is to find out how invested people are in the advice you give as well. If they aren't fully on board with your advice, then giving specifics will only be frustrating for you and won't really help them at all.

Personally I only give detailed instructions if I'm asked for it. A large part of personal growth is knowing how to handle situations. And you only gain that from experience. A large part of that experience is figuring out exactly how to do something, what works, and what doesn't. So in that sense, I prefer to start at the general and if needed work toward specifics.

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