The Problem With Unsolicited Advice
Nobody wants it.
There’s a phrase in the English language that many people have come to despise. It’s known as “unsolicited advice.” You know what I’m talking about, right? When someone tells you something they think is important for you to know, but it isn’t asked for and can be challenging to hear. It often feels like an attack on who we are and how we live our lives.
This type of advice is most commonly given by well-meaning friends or family members who think they know what’s best for us. They see us struggling with something and want to help, but their help isn’t always welcome. It can often make things worse.
So, why do people give unsolicited advice? There are a few reasons. First, they may not be aware that their advice isn’t welcome. They may genuinely believe they’re helping and that you’ll be grateful for their input. Second, they may have your best interests at heart but don’t know how to express it in a helpful way. And third, they may be trying to control the situation or the outcome. Regardless of the reason, unsolicited advice is rarely helpful and can often be harmful.
If you’re on the receiving end of unsolicited advice, you can do a few things to manage the situation. First, try to understand the intent behind the advice. It may be easier to hear if it’s coming from a place of love and concern. If it’s coming from a place of control, it may be harder to take. Second, you can express your gratitude for the person’s concern but let them know that you don’t need or want their advice. This can be difficult to do, but it’s important to be assertive. And finally, you can redirect the conversation to something else.
Let’s be real for a moment.
None of the above should apply. Right? After all, we didn’t want the advice to begin with. So, what is the big deal if we shrug it off?
The problem is, when we get unsolicited advice, it often feels like an attack. And when we feel attacked, our natural reaction is to defend ourselves. But this defense mechanism can often make the situation worse. Even more troubling, our natural defenses may make it seem like we did something incorrectly. Trust me, that is not the case here.
When we try to understand the intent behind the advice, we give the person who gave us the unsolicited advice the benefit of the doubt. We assume that they had good intentions, even if their execution was poor. This assumption can help diffuse the situation and allow us to see the advice for what it may have been intended to be: helpful.
Similarly, we are being assertive by expressing our gratitude for the concern but making it clear that we don’t want or need the advice. We are setting a boundary and making it clear that this person’s opinion will not control us. This assertiveness can help diffuse the situation and help the other person see that their advice is not welcome.
And finally, by redirecting the conversation to something else, we are taking control of the situation. We choose how to respond and what direction the conversation will go in. This can be a potent tool in managing unsolicited advice.
The thing about giving advice, either solicited or unsolicited, is that it is rarely followed.
When we give advice, we offer our opinion on a situation or problem. And while our thought may be well-meaning and helpful, it is ultimately up to the person receiving the advice to decide whether or not to follow it. Just because we offer our opinion does not mean that the other person is obligated to take it.
This can be difficult to accept, especially when we are close to the person receiving the advice. We can offer our opinion and hope that they will choose to follow it. We want them to take our advice because we think it will help them, but ultimately it is their decision.
Our life experiences uniquely shape our opinions. Offering advice of any kind to someone else shows a lack of regard for what made them who they are today. Additionally, our opinions are filled with errors compared to our colleagues and friends.
If you find yourself in a position where you feel the need to give unsolicited advice, stop and consider why. Is it because you genuinely believe that your opinion is the only correct one? Or is it because you think that the other person is not capable of making their own decisions? If it’s the latter, then it’s time to have a conversation about why you think that way. Unsolicited advice is rarely helpful and can often be harmful.
When it comes to giving or receiving unsolicited advice, it’s important to remember that the other person always has the final say. Our opinion is just that- an opinion. And while our intentions may be good, it’s up to the person we’re giving the advice to whether or not they want to take it. We can diffuse potentially explosive situations and maintain healthy relationships with those around us by remembering this.