Unsolicited Advice: Handle It Before It Handles You
Who Asked You?
Now, more than ever, you are hard pressed to go a single day without someone telling you what they think, or vice versa. “That outfit does wonders for your figure.” Does that mean my figure needs help? “Have you ever considered going back to school?” Are my credentials a joke? It’s everywhere you look; people sharing what’s on their minds or you explaining why you hold a particular opinion. Ever wonder why?
“Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a means of fishing the past from the garbage, wiping it off, and recycling it for more than it’s worth,” Baz Luhrman.
Advice brings people together, or it can. But more often than not, it can truly divide us. Unsolicited advice is the worst offender. “I’m sorry, did I ask if these pants make me look fat?” “What do you mean I should stay in college until I finish my degree when I’m so miserable?” How does one stay friends, or leave bridges unburned when unsolicited advice is given or received? Here are some tips.
It’s Better to Give than to Receive?
Really? One thing I’ve learned as I go through life, you can’t control other people, try as you might. What you can control is you. In my humble, unsolicited opinion, if you aren’t a fan of receiving unsolicited advice, stop dispensing it. You know that “do unto others” concept we keep hearing about…ever give it a try when it comes to advice? Try practicing what you preach and dial back giving advice if you don’t appreciate getting it. And if, by chance, you love receiving unsolicited advice…consider that others may not be as receptive as you are.
For example, your co-worker just got engaged and is about to endeavor to plan her own wedding. You yourself are or have been married and have tons of great tips & tricks you think will save her time and headache. Bless you for being so considerate! Before you let your pearls of wisdom fly though, stop, and consider…did she ask you for help? Does she want to know where to score a deal on a cake? Is she interested in knowing what NOT to add to her gift registry? Would she be heartbroken if her ceremony wasn’t captured on video? Maybe. Try to hold your advice until she asks for it. Odds are you won’t have to wait long, and then not only can you help her out, but she’ll be eager to hear what you have to say. Win : win!
Whoa There, Partner!
When receiving unsolicited advice, especially from people you care about, try to slow down and realize that they are trying to love you back. “Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it,” Baz Luhrman. Instead of getting all hot and bothered or tuning out their words, be grateful. They could just let you learn things for yourself, costing you time, money, even self-doubt. When someone is nice enough to take the time to let you know you have a run in your hose, or you’ll be better off planting perennials instead of annuals, thank your lucky stars that you have people in your life who care about you.
For example, you just shared the news that you’re expecting your first child. All of the sudden you have relatives you didn’t even know you had sharing the best way to wean an infant off the bottle. Then there’re e-mails from friends about which diaper ointment to swear by. Heck, you’ve got your boss telling you how easy you have it now, just wait until you have to choose a college for your not-even-born-yet child. It can make your head swim. Don’t let it. Take a breath, smile big, and thank everyone for their help. Go one better and leave out any contradictory ideas you may have to counter what they’ve offered. Keep those thoughts close to your vest to avoid even more opinions on what you have in mind, and rightfully so, as the child’s parent.
Be Ready to Make Nice
Well, now you’ve done it. You’ve put in your two cents and the recipient is not amused. Time for a helping of humble pie. Whether you’ve annoyed, angered, or upset the person, you are the one who should and can make amends. Apologize, sincerely…that’s a great way to make things right. If that doesn’t work, maybe you need to leave that person alone for a while. If so, be sure to check back with them and re-attempt your apology, if that’s an option. Take responsibility for the reaction you sparked and you should have little trouble turning the awkward situation around. Once turned around, move on and learn from your mistake.
Walk Softly and Carry a Deafening Retort
Sometimes you just can’t catch a break. That one person finds you with a juicy tidbit of advice that you never asked for, didn’t need to hear, and are now thoroughly offended or hurt that they’ve shared. How could you not already be aware that your screaming toddler will calm down once he’s had a good nap outside the grocery store? Is it really possible you didn’t notice the yogurt stain down the front of your blouse before you joined the boss’ conference meeting? No, it never occurred to you that purchasing a manual transmission automobile, though reducing the purchase price will also decrease the re-sale value. Unsolicited advice will find you sooner or later.
We’ve all been there at some point. People’s unsolicited advice can make you angry, defensive, genuinely hurt your feelings. There’s no need to lash out in response. Keep your cool and think of something clever to bounce back with. Nothing cruel or nasty, unless someone’s really pushing it with you; make it a proportional response. “Gee, now there’s a good tip, if only I had something to make a note of it.” Or, “You’re right, I can see how you’d know all about that, living in a completely different part of town.” Don’t forget to smile big when you lay on the charming reply. Usually, that will do the trick.
Silence Is Golden
In the end, you have to be sure your input is desired. You also have to be fairly certain how your advice will be received. Not sure how to play the situation, whether it be taking in or dishing out an opinion…play it safe, say nothing. You can always argue ignorance if you get into trouble. “I didn’t see that food stuck in your teeth.” Or, “Did you say something?” The key is to stay out of advice’s path of possible destruction. It’s a skill, once mastered, can save you many a migraine in life.