12

Take this for what you will, but I have found that saying things like "you should have" aren't constructive.

Instead, try things like "In the future, take these steps"

Try to help the OP as much as you can out of their predicament, and don't post things that amount to "Well, you shouldn't have put your hand in the fire if you didn't want to get burned"

Going along that analogy, an answer could be phrased more like.

"Well, there isn't much prevention you can do now, except make sure you get medical treatment for that burn. In the future, try approaching the fire with the proper safety equipment, be sure to have an extinguisher nearby, wear fire resistant gloves, try using tools such as a poker, to keep you away from the fire."

See how a difference in tone can help?

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    In many cases "you should have" is the functional equivalent to "in the future, take these steps". For example, "you should have talked to your manager first" versus "in the future, talk to your manager first". Not much difference there. – Joe Strazzere Oct 29 '19 at 11:24
  • @JoeStrazzere If you omit the part on what to do now, then yes, it is a distinction without a difference. – Old_Lamplighter Oct 29 '19 at 12:35
19

I agree with you that just pointing out someone's mistakes to them is not terribly helpful, without providing any further advice. However, I think it is ok to mention the mistakes someone may have made in getting into a difficult situation, as it can be instructive for them to realize what they did wrong. I think most people will acknowledge that making mistakes is an important part of learning.

Personally, I would recommend an answer structure along these lines:

  1. Point out the mistake(s) they made, that have led to them getting into a bad place.
  2. Provide some advice on what they can do now, to try to alleviate the situation and get themselves out of their predicament.
  3. Explain what they can do differently in future, to avoid getting into similar difficult situations.
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    Also, don't forget that advice on how to avoid this problem in the future can be greatly useful to other readers who may be approaching a similar situation but haven't gotten trapped yet. – A. I. Breveleri Oct 31 '19 at 20:47

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