Debbie and I often discuss our concerns about the quality of research on resilience. But we are even more troubled by guidance from sources that make no distinction between advice based on well-established facts and advice that is based on mere opinion, advice that is merely “sweet talk”.
What is sweet talk? It’s hard to give it an air-tight definition, but you can recognize it if:
- It briefly makes you feel hopeful, but is soon forgotten.
- It doesn’t give you a “recipe” for how you can implement its ideas or suggestions.
- It is short on evidence that it will work. It may be empty claims, opinions (or even rehashes of other peoples’s opinions) that are only loosely based on evidence.
- It doesn’t show you specific ways you can apply its suggestions to your own life.
- It gives you little or no guidance about how to develop skills that make you more resilient.
Basically “sweet talk” creates the illusion that change is easy. It is almost entirely focused on gains while omitting a discussion of costs (that is, the planning and work you need to do to become more resilient).
Often, we find lists that tell you to do things like “be positive” or “be confident”. The changes are desirable, but also can be hard to make. Often missing is an explanation of what you can do to make those changes.
Sweet talk feels good to hear, but may not be well-rooted in reality or have much effect on your resilience and your life.
The truth is that life is challenging. Life calls upon us to use and develop the gifts that we start with or that fall in our laps by luck. It also tempts us to avoid the effort needed to do what we must do to cultivate our full potential.
Admittedly, sweet talk sometimes helps. Sweet talk can be like the match that lights the fuse that sets off a powerful reaction. The energy and abilities are already there, but some sweet talk may help to activate them.
Sweet talk can give you the illusion that you have learned how to better your life without showing you how to do that.