Don’t violate my #1 rule of human behavior

September 18th, 2013 by Bob Bly

Subscriber VB sent me an e-mail that was just a single sentence.
Referring to a landing page for one of my information products,
it said:

“Your web site needs work.”

A simple message, but it is inappropriate and absurd on so many

Let me count the ways….

1-It violates my #1 rule of human behavior: Never give
unsolicited advice.

I didn’t ask VB for a web site critique. So why give one?

Advice that is not sought or paid for is seldom valued by the
recipient. It certainly wasn’t in this case.

2-It violates the rules of good criticism, which require that
after you say something is negative, you suggest how it might be

That’s what we call “constructive criticism,” and VB’s comment
isn’t constructive.

3-It is made in a vacuum.

VB does not know the marketing objective of my web site, nor
does she know the results I am getting.

To imply that it is bad without knowing whether it works is
misguided at best and ridiculous at worst.

4-It is made without demonstration of authority.

When I read VB’s short e-mail, my immediate thought was: “And
you are?”

Who is VB? What are her accomplishments in Internet marketing
that qualify her to make this pronouncement about my site?

Her signature file indicates she has a 9 to 5 job with an
academic institution. If she was making hundreds of thousands of
dollars in online marketing, she wouldn’t have to work a 9 to 5

5-VB is in fact ignorant about the topic she comments on.

I asked her for clarification, and she gave this specific
criticism: “Boasting of personal income indicates you aren’t
targeting an educated demographic.”

Who said my target market is “an educated demographic”?

What VB doesn’t understand and didn’t bother to ask is whether I
am targeting prospects of any particular education level. And I
am not.

My target is people who want to make money writing and selling
simple information online – aspiring Internet entrepreneurs and
newbies. Level of education is not a selection factor.

VB also informs me: “Scroll-down page format is outdated.”

But it is a simple matter to surf the Internet and check out the
landing pages of so many successful online marketers to see that
this is absolutely not the case.

Why do I urge you not to give unsolicited advice like VB gave me?

**It is neither appreciated nor respected by the person you give
it to.

**There is a very good chance the recipient of your advice knows
more than you do, including why your advice as it pertains to
their specific situation is wrong. So you look foolish giving it.

**Surely you have work of your own to do. So do it. Why waste
your valuable time giving people advice they don’t even want?

If you really feel compelled to give advice, become a coach or
consultant so you at least get paid for it and deliver your
suggestions to people who actually want them.

BTW, VB and I had a pleasant back-and-forth exchange of e-mails.
She is a nice, intelligent person – just misguided, for the 5
reasons outlined above.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 at 10:05 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

25 responses about “Don’t violate my #1 rule of human behavior”

  1. Angela Mathers said:

    Wow, I couldn’t agree with you more. You should have told them their social and communication skills need some work.

  2. Joe Ward said:

    All feedback is good feedback if you evaluate it objectively. You should never assume that someone needs to outperform you in order to make an observation.

    You don’t believe the impressions of the people you’re marketing to are important?

    You point out that you’re not targeting any particular education level, and yet you then expect one of your readers to meet some professional standard you’ve imposed, or exceed your level of success in infomarketing in order for you to consider their feedback meaningful?

    For the percentage of your audience that may see your site in the same way as VB, your rejection of her feedback will ensure that you continue to send potentially negative impressions.

    It’s when your audience isn’t giving you feedback that you should really worry. I really don’t recommend scolding people for giving you feedback, but that too is unsolicited advice. :)

  3. Damien said:

    So true, Bob. Many people assume that their own concerns, tastes, and priorities are the same for everyone. In many ways it’s a form of projection.

    I really like how you articulated why this approach is flawed and how we all need to think twice sometimes.

  4. Bob Bly said:

    Joe: Nope. All feedback is NOT good feedback. Quite the opposite, for reason #3 stated in my post.

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  9. Chris Ellis said:

    I couldn’t agree more. I believe that people do that to try and position themselves at the level of or above successful people. It is unhelpful and the intention is self serving. I am assuming that she did this publicly and not via private message, always a huge no no.
    Great article!

  10. Wayne English said:


    In my view, the only time unsolicited advise is worthwhile is when it points out a specific problem. Such as a typographical error, or other bona fide problem. To say your website needs work is useless as it mentions nothing specific and does not present the credentials of the person making the statement.

    Wayne English

  11. Michael said:

    Well said and a great reminder.

  12. Brian Whitaker said:

    Best advice for any marketer (and any human being, come to think of it).

    “Never generalize from a single data point.”

  13. kurt kopf said:

    Keep a very open mind. Is what I try to be.

    My new word is: “Perspectisphere”.

    Picture a sphere with many focal points on it. Each one being a perspective.

    A truly open mind would enjoy examining them all.



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  15. Herb said:

    I agree with your point of view.

    Last night, I read a little of Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

    I suggest VB would profit from reading Part 4 – Nine Ways To Change People Without Giving Offence Or Arousing Resentment
    • 1 – If You Must Find Fault, This Is the Way to Begin
    • 2 – How to Criticize—and Not Be Hated for It
    • 3 – Talk About Your Own Mistakes First
    • 4 – No One Likes to Take Orders
    • 5 – Let the Other Man Save His Face
    • 6 – How to Spur Men on to Success
    • 7 – Give the Dog a Good Name
    • 8 – Make the Fault Seem Easy to Correct
    • 9 – Making People Glad to Do What You Want

    I read an interesting article at LinkedIn about Entitlement and bad manners. Perhaps VB’s ‘problem’…

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