When And When To Not Be An Expert

The internet is an amazing place. It’s filled with all kinds of information in real time and within seconds. Anyone else remember using those encyclopedia CD-ROMs before the internet to learn about things? Then printing it out and make a binder so you could teach yourself French and oceanography? No? Only me? Ok.

With such an expansive and open market of information, it’s our responsibility as consumers and those who supply that information to make sure that it is credible. Take care as a reader to not accept everything on face value. Find out who is providing the information for those “10 best moves for toning arms” or “THE ONE THING YOU NEED TO DO TODAY TO BE HAPPY.” There’s good and bad info out there and we need to be smart enough to figure out which is which.

The same goes for those of us who provide that information. As bloggers, we have a readership base who comes to us to read about our opinions, what we ate (mmm), and our recommendations. If they didn’t value what we had to say, they simply wouldn’t read it.

It is our responsibility to make sure that any advice or recommendations we make align with our own experiences and qualifications. We owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves to not overstep our bounds. Here’s a couple thoughts I have on when and when NOT to be an expert.

As readers and providers of information, it's our responsibility to know what we can and can't trust or say. These are my thoughts on how to share information correctly.

WHEN TO BE AN EXPERT

  • The most obvious answer here is if you are educated in and possess a degree or certification in a certain field (e.g., personal training, diatetics, neuroscience, etc.)

1. When there’s no process to becoming one

Let me clarify. By this I mean it is possible to be considered an expert in something where there is no clearly defined educational or professional system to define it.

Take social media, for example. There is no degree or certification in social media (correction: apparently there are some online ones??), but there are clearly people who know what they are doing and can offer advice on best practices in the industry. You’ll often find these people speaking at conferences and workshops based on a group consensus that they have important information on the subject.

If you have a proven track record of success with repeatable steps that can be generalized to others, I’d consider you an expert (feel free to disagree).

WHEN TO NOT BE AN EXPERT

1. A personal training client (or anyone) asks you for detailed nutrition information or meal plans

Unless you are a registered dietitian in addition to being a personal trainer, you are not legally allowed to prescribe meal plans and offer in-depth nutritional consults. There is basic nutritional information that you are allowed to share with clients, but beyond that they should be referred to someone who has spent years of their life specializing in the subject.

2. When talking about your own situation in relation to everyone else’s

Just because you cured your depression “with exercise and light therapy,” it doesn’t mean that this approach is universal to everyone suffering from depression. Be careful in generalizing your experiences to an entire group of people. You can certainly share your story, but make sure to state that these are YOUR results and they may not work for everyone.

For example, I’m certainly an expert in my own experience with addiction and recovery, but I can’t speak on behalf of the entire community of addicts. I can simply state the steps I’ve taken and the results I’ve gotten. Another addict following my path may have a different result.

Another HUGE one is having children and being a parent. There are so many people willing to shove their “advice” down your throat about the correct way to do something without any consideration of the other person’s parenting style or plan. Props to you parents — it’s a tough one out there!

3. Prescribing training and exercise plans if you’re not certified

I see a lot of people who are exercise enthusiasts posting workout plans or routines without holding any kind of certification except for the “I love to workout!” certification. It’s true that you can be self-educated and know a lot about exercise without getting certified AND that those people who do hold certifications may not be the best trainers. The difference is that even if they’re not the best trainers for whatever reason, they still were required to get CPR certified and learn extensively about the human body and movement systems.

I never felt comfortable writing about specific workouts on this blog until I had my certification. Even though I knew a lot, I knew that personally I wouldn’t want to follow a plan from just anyone, which is what prompted me to get my certification.

These are just some of the examples I came up with, but I’m sure there’s many more. Make sure to share them in the comments!

Also, if you haven’t already, head on over to my previous post to enter the NOW Foods giveaway before it ends next week. There’s A LOT of stuff!

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud!

Questions:

  • Any other examples of when you should or should not be an expert?
  • What do you think makes an expert?
Follow:

30 Comments

  1. June 9, 2016 / 5:20 am

    Erin this is awesome. After becoming a CPT last year and finishing YTT next month I’ve been thinking a lot about “experts” and the risks involved if you don’t have the experience, knowledge and background in ________. I mean, there’s so much more to creating safe and effective workouts than people realize and the risk of injury is real.

    It was great chatting with you haha 🙂

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:03 pm

      Absolutely! I think you’re doing a great job of providing workouts but also telling people why and details about each movement!

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:03 pm

      Ooh ooh pick me!

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:04 pm

      Absolutely, good point! And I totally used actual ones as well 🙂

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:04 pm

      Totally. Those were the examples that I see most regularly, but you’re right that there’s just so much information everywhere!

  2. June 9, 2016 / 8:06 am

    Great post sometimes I shake my head at the things that are out there. I’m always careful to say these things worked for me especially when I do anxiety or mental health posts.
    Ivanna recently posted…How I’m Focusing on Gut Health This SummerMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:05 pm

      Oh yes me too. That reminds me I’m due to write another one of those soon!

  3. June 9, 2016 / 8:32 am

    So, every time my husband and I whip out of phones to look up another random fact, I ask him “how did we KNOW things before smartphones?”
    Haha, but you’re right – info is everywhere, good and bad. (Also, I miss encyclopedias and got sad when we donated ours to my husband’s work.)
    I try never to portray myself as an exercise or dietary “expert” because I have no training or medical education. I think you do a great job of sharing YOUR experience but also directing others to obtain more info.
    And God do I agree with the parenting advice point!!!! There are not enough exclamation points. 😉
    Great post!
    Catherine @ foodiecology recently posted…The Glorification of BusyMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:06 pm

      Hahahaha about parenting. Oh man, I know what you mean about the phones. I can learn things so much faster now!

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:06 pm

      Agreed!

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:07 pm

      I know. I’m sure that you get super frustrated with all the dietary advice out there!

  4. June 9, 2016 / 9:15 am

    I love this, and I think that’s what has kept me away from formulating my own workouts, because there are people who are MUCH more knowledgable than me and well educated on those things. Also, when it comes to prescribing diets that worked for you for other people; that irritates me because it doesn’t allow for the fact that everybody is SO different. I’m glad that you covered that! 🙂
    Emily recently posted…Thinking Out Loud: Sugar CravingsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:08 pm

      Totally. The diet thing is so tricky bc there are so many differences in individual bodies!

  5. June 9, 2016 / 9:41 am

    This is such a true and important post!
    Last year i sat down with my friend who is becoming a doctor, and we were talking about my blog. She had mentioned something about me writing about how taking Oil of Oregano pills has helped me in the past to quickly ward off a cold. She told me that there was actually no scientific research to back that up and I should be careful about what i post.
    It occurred to me how important it is to mention at the beginning of any post that these tips/ideas are based on MY personal experience, and in no way am i qualified to give medical advice.
    It is hard to draw the line sometimes because we get so excited about something and just want to share it – but to what extent?
    Beverley @ Born to Sweat recently posted…Light Your Arms & Abs Up With This Resistance Band WorkoutMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:09 pm

      Absolutely! It can definitely be exciting to share things that have worked for us, but also important to clarify that it may not be universally applicable.

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:09 pm

      Yes, super annoying!

  6. June 9, 2016 / 12:16 pm

    Wait, ARE YOU SAYING EVERYTHING ON THE INTERNET ISN’T TRUE?! What is this?!

    Even though I have two running certifications both of which discussed nutrition in depth, when I posted about that on my blog, I made it especially clear that I was NOT an RD because I didn’t want to mislead anyone.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…How Barre Has Made Me a Stronger RunnerMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:10 pm

      Hahaha. Yeah totally. Good job on that!

  7. June 9, 2016 / 3:45 pm

    I kind of miss the days before the internet blew up, because there’s just WAY too much info out there these days, with most of it being so conflicting. I try to stress the fact that the things I talk about are based on my own personal experience, but I really do hope that people are being critical of what they read online and not taking everything as fact.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…this post is all over the place (ToL#186)My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 4:10 pm

      Me too, girl, me too.

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 9, 2016 / 9:18 pm

      Totally. Everyone is so different!!

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 12, 2016 / 9:06 pm

      Thank you AmberLynn!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.