Dealing with unsolicited advice is something we all struggle with at one time or another.
I recently asked for your feedback on a survey about boundaries and saying no. One of the questions I asked was, “What do you tolerate on a regular basis because you think you are supposed to?” One answer that came up again and again was, “dealing with unsolicited advice” about a variety of topics; what I eat, how I parent, my work, what I’m wearing, how I look, what I do with money and more!
So here is my advice on unsolicited advice.
Dealing With Unsolicited Advice: 10 fascinating things to consider before giving or receiving advice
1. You don’t have to be so helpful.
Anne Lamott says, “Our help is usually not very helpful. Our help is often toxic. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody.” Oh, ouch! Help is the sunny side of control?!
I’ll admit, I often think of my advice as “being helpful” which is why seeing it through Anne Lamott’s eyes is so powerful. It makes me wonder, do I want to help or do I want to control the situation. What about you … helpful or controlling?
2. Ask first
Ask yourself, “Does this person want my advice?” If you aren’t sure, ask them. “Is it ok if I tell you what I think?” or “Do you want my advice?” If they say no, believe them.
3. Tell first.
When you are talking to your people about something, be clear about what you’d like in response. If you don’t want advice, say, “I’d like to share this with you and I am not looking for advice.” or “I don’t want advice or feedback but instead I just want to say this out loud. I want to vent.” And then just to be really clear ask, “Is that ok with you?”
In some cases you may be actually looking for advice and you can ask for it.
4. Stay in your business.
This goodness from Byron Katie always reels me in, “There are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s.
- Whose business is it if an earthquake happens? God’s business.
- Whose business is it if your neighbor down the street has an ugly lawn? Your neighbor’s business.
- Whose business is it if you are angry at your neighbor down the street because he has an ugly lawn? Your business.
Life is simple—it is internal.
Count, in five minute intervals, how many times you are in someone else’s business mentally. Notice when you give uninvited advice or offer your opinion about something (aloud or silently).
Ask yourself: “Am I in their business? Did they ask me for my advice?” And more importantly, “Can I take the advice I am offering and apply it to my life?”
I am constantly asking myself, “Is this my business?” 9 out of 10 times, it’s not. Next, I consider the advice I had ready to go and see if I can apply it to my own life.
5. Consider past exchanges.
Has my advice been well received in this relationship in the past? If your advice has been routinely dismissed or debated, stop offering it. Instead ask, “How can I help?” or just listen. Not everything requires a response.
6. Don’t be mistreated.
When advice crosses the line to commenting on your clothing, body, or other things that are completely inappropriate, speak it. “That’s inappropriate.” One of my favorite quotes is from Elizabeth Lesser. She so eloquently says, “Do no harm, take no shit.”
7. Let it go.
Once you give your advice (with permission), let it go. You’ve given it to someone else and it’s up to them to decide what to do with it. It’s kind of like writing a book. You can’t tell people how to read it, when to read it or even to read it at all. You don’t get to control how other people receive your words.
When you receive advice, if it doesn’t resonate, let it go. If you feel pressured to act or follow through, you aren’t dealing with advice, you are dealing with expectations. You don’t have to deal with those at all.
8. Re-frame your advice.
When giving it … Instead of telling others what they should do, remind them that this is what has been helpful for you or how you imagine you would move forward in their situation. Reinforce self trust, “You know what’s best for you.”
When receiving it … When you are blindsided with unsolicited advice that isn’t welcome or helpful, simply say, “Thank you for the thoughtful feedback.” Then see #7.
9. Don’t take advice too seriously.
When I’m considering advice, especially unsolicited advice. I do a quick scan and ask the following questions,
Is this person qualified to offer this advice? For instance, If someone is offering me medical advice and they are not a medical professional, I’ll say thank you and do my own research.
Why am I so resistant to or bothered by this advice? Often, it’s because the advice isn’t helpful but sometimes it’s because it’s something I really need to hear and really do not want to hear.
Even though I don’t love it all, is there a bit of goodness here? In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. (P.S. That’s a terrible saying but perfectly illustrates what I’m going for here.)
10. Trust yourself.
Before you seek advice, check in with yourself. Take good care and check in again. After you get advice, check in again. Put your hands on your heart, breathe and ask, “what’s best for me?” Trust the answer.
The fascinating part of these 10 things is that the next time, before unsolicited advice is coming out of our mouths or when it is pouring into our ears, we can think about it differently and might not have to be dealing with unsolicited advice at all. It’s fascinating that in many situations, by changing our thoughts, we can change our experience.
I’m offering you advice on advice. The irony is not lost on me. I’m learning with you. I love you. I love us.