Look, I’m just going to say it. Advice that requires time travel is rude and useless. Utter garbage.
It’s so common, too. I’m sure you’ve done it. I know I’ve done it. And I can’t think of someone, off hand, who hasn’t ever done it:
“Why didn’t you go before we left home?” (searching for a toilet while out and about)
“You should have saved money so this wouldn’t happen!” (when an unexpected expense comes up — even if you’re barely scraping along, struggling to make ends meet and haven’t had disposable income in years, if ever)
Whenever I’m having a personal crisis, I’m already thinking those things about myself. Kicking myself. I don’t need to be reminded.
Yes, I get that it’s a normal reflex, for someone to react with “well, you should have” or “why didn’t you?”
But it’s not helpful. It’s just annoying.
It’s Better to Actually Help Solve the Problem
So if time travel is no good, then what IS actually helpful? Basically, anything that can solve the problem without traveling back in time.
It’s really that simple.
If You Absolutely Must, Talk about “Next Time” — AFTER the Immediate Crisis Is Tended To
“Okay, Page,” you might be saying, “that makes sense and all. But what about people’s stupid mistakes? I can’t just leave them not pointed out. They need to know what they did wrong, or they’re just going to do it again and again.”
Setting aside the reality that people are flawed and the possibility that they are going to make mistakes from time to time whether you personally warn them or not, I understand the desire to try to help someone prevent making the same mistake in the future.
Here’s the thing though: That’s better addressed after the immediate crisis is tended to.
It’s really just as simple as that. Instead of saying, “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” or “OMG, you should have done X and you wouldn’t have this problem” while there’s still a crisis… just wait until after the problem is solved. (And even better, help solve the problem.)
“Next time you really ought to…” or “Now that this is fixed, we need to talk about how to ensure this never happens again…”
And just like that, you’re actually being helpful.
After all, if you really think someone’s messing up too much and not taking steps to prevent it from happening in the future — as a general pattern — you might want to rethink that relationship and possibly even distance yourself so it doesn’t keep happening to you.
(Notice how I didn’t say “you probably shouldn’t have become close to that person in the first place?” That’s because that would involve time travel.)