“I never give advice unless someone asks me for it. One thing I’ve learned, and possibly the only advice I have to give, is to not be that person giving out unsolicited advice based on your own personal experience.” ~Taylor Swift
I’ll admit it – I’m a know-it-all and I’m one of those people who used to offer unsolicited advice a little too often. These days, I try to be less verbal about it and I go a different route with my advice.
Actually, that’s how I met you. Now, I write about it instead – blogs, books and more.
But when people ask, personally or in my life coaching practice, I’m always happy to share my thoughts.
But what about those big jerks (not to mention the narcissists in our lives) who make us feel small, or like we’re doing something wrong?
Maybe it’s our mothers or sisters or mothers-in-law, telling us how to raise our kids. Or maybe it’s our husbands or partners telling us how we should clean the house/wear our clothes/do our hair.
Maybe it’s our nosy neighbors who feel like they need to tell us how to keep our yards, or our well-meaning best friends who just don’t understand our situation.
In any case, when someone is always offering advice you just don’t want to hear, what can you do to get them to shut up already – without being overly rude or offensive?
What’s the deal with unsolicited advice?
Sometimes, we all do it – give someone advice whether they want it or not; and yet, we often resent it when someone tries to tell us how to clean our house or parent our children.
But who among us can resist chiming in when our spouse is driving, a friend wants a new haircut when our kids are doing…well, almost anything?
Then again, we each have wisdom and experiences to share that could help others. Solve the dilemma of when to speak up and when to hold back with these tips for taking and giving advice.
How to Give Advice Without Being Pushy
1. Hit the proverbial runway! Be a model. Switch to behavior modeling. Setting a good example exerts more influence than anything you can say. If you want your children to be kind and responsible, demonstrating those qualities yourself is more powerful than a lecture.
2. Know and explain what you’re really talking about. Clarify your purpose. When you do need to give advice, start by checking your intentions. Are you trying to help others or control them? They’ll usually notice.
3. Ask yourself if this really matters. Consider the urgency. Of course, there are times when someone’s well-being outweighs any concerns about interfering. Warn tourists about walking in dangerous neighborhoods, but mind your own business if they want to buy overpriced souvenirs.
4. Give them an out. Provide notice. Advice is easier to take when we know that it’s coming. Ask someone if they want feedback.
5. Don’t be a bitch. Speak tactfully. While there are popular books addressed to dummies and idiots, that approach will probably backfire for you. Make it clear that you’re just stating your opinion or offering an alternative option.
6. Consider the time and find the perfect moment. Work on your timing. Effective advice comes in small doses. Give others time to process your message before piling on more.
7. Don’t treat them like they’re stupid. Skip the obvious. Advice needs to be useful. Assume that others realize they’re overweight or wish they bought stock in Chipotle years ago.
8. Say something really nice first – be positive! Offer praise. We often want validation rather than guidance. Congratulate a friend who just sold her first painting, instead of trying to determine whether she made enough to cover her expenses for art lessons, supplies and studio space.
9. Be like me (blog your little heart out!). Roll with me, baby! Broadcast your message. Maybe you’re a new parent or gourmet chef brimming over with valuable tips, but your co-workers care more about finances or sports. Write a blog or lead a workshop to reach an audience interested in what you have to say.
10. Take your own advice. Look within. Remember to fulfill your own needs while you’re reaching out to others. Developing your own potential gives you more to contribute.
How to Receive Advice (and How to Shut It Down)
1. Be cool about it. Reassure others. Your boss may give you detailed instructions because of their own insecurities rather than any doubts about your abilities. Letting them know that you respect their accomplishments could make it easier for them to give you more room to complete tasks your way.
2. Remember, it’s your life. You’re the boss! Set boundaries. It’s okay to discourage unwanted comments when you’re dealing with a challenging situation. If someone urges you to try a different cancer treatment, let them know you and your doctor are handling the situation and you’d rather discuss something else.
3. Do end it fast. Keep it brief. How often do you change religions because someone hands you a nifty pamphlet? Thank others for trying to be helpful and avoid conversations that probably won’t pay off.
4. Take what you can use, leave the rest. Be selective. On the other hand, listen with an open mind to feedback that sounds reasonable. Once you understand the information, you can decide if it’s relevant for you.
5. Ultimately, you decide. Acknowledge your freedom. Unsolicited advice tends to disturb us because we think it challenges our autonomy. Keep in mind that you have the power to choose your actions regardless of what you hear.
Unsolicited advice is tricky. Examine your motives before you make recommendations, and remember you’re in charge of your destiny even when others may try to change your behavior or beliefs.
Have you been affected by unsolicited advice, whether on the giving or receiving side? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments, below.