How familiar does this sound…
“Hey man, if you want to get stronger you need to widen your stance.”
or how about this
“You need to take more rest between sets.”
“You should lighten the weights before you hurt yourself .”
It happens in every gym, everywhere, and it happens to everyday. Somebody comes up to you right after you rack the weight, or if they’re even more obnoxious, mid-set, and starts spouting suggestions and tweaks you need to do. Some advice may come from a place of concern, some from ignorance, and some from pure broscience, but unless you’ve asked for it, it is all unsolicited. No matter your experience level, this creates a dilemma and can make for an uncomfortable situation. Your response doesn’t have to be one of aggression or rudeness.
Some people will tell you to ignore them, tell them to piss off, or just plug your headphones back in. While these responses may make them walk away, it might also cost you an opportunity to learn something and label you an asshole. Since most of us aren’t assholes, there’s a far better way.
Ask them a question. Ask a really good question. Ask the one you asked your parents as a kid. Why?
No, really, when somebody offers advice that you haven’t asked for, ask why. If they are really trying to help, they will give you an explanation. Not only will they give you an explanation, they will give you a valid, non-broscience explanation. Sometimes the best advice starts off with a “tip” and because you asked why, you get a lesson and maybe find somebody to help take your training to the next level. Ladies, the exception is for you, and most of you already know, there are those bro’s that think the gym is a good place to hit on women and “show primitive dominance”. You have to use your sleez-o-meter and determine if the bro is bro-ing or if they are genuine.
The longer you’ve been training, the harder it is for somebody to offer valid advice. If they haven’t been around you for a long time (think years), they probably don’t why you are doing what you do and may throw out some generic advice. Don’t let it throw you in a funk. But don’t dismiss the “kid” just because you’re “old school.” Sometimes we see something or even know something, that may help.
It never hurts to listen. If you’re super-focused, tell them to wait until you’re done. Somebody that truly wants to help will actually wait for a better time. Experience is what allows you to improve. One of the easiest ways to gain experience is to listening. You don’t have to incorporate the advice right then and there, but hearing different opinions and views benefits you in two ways: it gives you another perspective and it helps raise your bullshit meter.