Just a few weeks ago, this happened:

Because, for some people, seeing a stranger ‘doing diabetes’ is all it takes to jump right on in and offer a piece of wisdom, when really, the right thing to do is simply look away and say nothing. My response is generally quite brusque, leaving no room for misinterpreting my complete and utter lack of interest in furthering the conversation. 

That experience, along with another intrusion from a stranger yesterday had me wondering why some folks think it’s fine to be so insensitive, and curious about how other people deal with this sort of crap.

Somewhat serendipitously, I stumbled across Up To Us, an art exhibition which is ‘Bringing women together to design the world we want’. The works I’ve already seen shared online all look great – centring women in a way that brings awareness to issues and problems that are relevant to women. But it was the artwork contributed by Unsolicited Advice Project that grabbed my attention. I mean, look at this!

The Unsolicited Advice Project is the creative brainchild of two Australian artists. Their website explains their work like this:

As chronically ill and disabled people, we receive a lot of unsolicited advice. We know people mean well, but it often feels dismissive, unproductive and condescending. There are ways to have more productive and empathetic conversations, and they probably look different for everybody. 

Oh, but isn’t that right?!

You can read all about the The Unsolicited Advice Project here and follow on Instagram here. There is an absolutely hilarious Instagram stories ‘unsolicited advice generator’ effect that you can have a play with too, which churns out advice that is representative of the sort of ‘Have you tried…?’ rubbish that people like to offer.

I’ve taken to stopping people as soon as they utter the three words: ‘Have you tried…?’ because their offerings will be from one of two camps. 1. Something I know about and am possibly already doing; or 2. A meme from Dr Oz Mehmet or Dr Mark Hyman or it involves some ‘wellness hack’ that I have absolutely no interest in hearing about. 

I love what The Unsolicited Advice Project is. I love the way it is using art as advocacy to highlight an issue that so many people with chronic health conditions face frequently and which often adds am additional burden to just getting on with our lives. I love that as people walk through the exhibition and see this, they start to understand how unwelcome many people find this sort of unwanted and uncalled for advice. I love how this might make people think twice about diabetesplaining the health condition I self-manage and inevitably know more about than they do. I love that it might discourage people from seeing diabetes as something for which there is a quick fix.

And I love the idea of this as a conversation starter for the broader community about how to engage people with chronic health conditions or disabilities in ways that generate respect, and are led by the community.