- How often do you give advice? What are your reasons for doing so?
- Have you ever regretted giving people unsolicited advice? Did you feel your advice put people off?
- How often do you feel annoyed because people give you unsolicited advice? How do you react to it?
- Why are people so eager to give advice?
- How should we handle unwanted advice?
- Do you agree with the following quotes:
- Have you ever been in this situation?
Abridged from here:
Have a nice day,» said the mom to her teenage daughter; to which the daughter replied, «Motherrrr, will you pulleeeezestop telling me what to do!» I empathize with both parties in this old joke. Sometimes we get so overrun by unsolicited advice that even the most innocuous, benevolent advice becomes intolerable.
My wife and I have a wonderful marriage. One cause of our bliss is that we have both learned to avoid giving the other person unwanted advice. I remember one early step in that learning process for me. We were coming home from a movie, and my wife was driving. I noticed that she was keeping the car in second gear when she clearly should have shifted to third, maybe even to fourth. Stupidly, I told her so. She didn’t say anything, but her curt manner of shifting and the silence I heard for the next few minutes spoke volumes. It said, among other things: «Look, buddy, I’ve been driving for years; I don’t need you to micromanage my driving. Did you really have to interrupt our conversation about the movie, right now, to tell me how to drive!» All that, just from my polite, «Sweetie, I think you should be in a higher gear here; you’d get better gas mileage that way and it would be easier on the engine.» I had to admit, as I thought about it, that if she had given similar advice to me, my unspoken reaction would have been about the same.
Sometimes, of course, unsolicited advice is welcome. If I’m stepping into the ocean and someone, anyone, comes over and advises me not to swim there because sharks were spotted there a few minutes age, I’m grateful. I hear this not so much as advice as useful, potentially life-saving information, which I didn’t know before. I’d feel even more grateful, though, without even the slightest tinge of annoyance, if the Good Samaritan had entirely omitted the advice part of the message (to not swim there) and just given me the informationpart (about the sharks). Then I’d feel that a decision to stay out of the water was entirely my own, based on my own capacity to think rationally, and was not in any way coerced. I wouldn’t, then, have even the slightest temptation to continue into the water just to prove that «I’ll do whatever I blankety blank well choose to do, thank you!
Why do we react this way to unsolicited advice? Why don’t we just accept it for what it often is — the other person’s genuine concern and desire to help? Others who have written on this question have suggested a number of reasonable answers. They suggest that the advice, justifiably or not, comes across to us as one-upmanship, or assertion of dominance, or criticism, or distrust, or failure to consider our own unique goals and priorities. I agree with all that, but I would add that the main, underlying answer has to do with our desire to protect our own freedom.
Unsolicited advice from loved ones can be especially threatening, because of our strong desire to please those persons. It’s hard to ignore advice from loved ones, because we implicitly fear that failure to follow it will signal lack of love or respect. At the same time, we don’t want to follow the advice, because we want to retain our autonomy. In fact, we especially don’t want to follow the advice of a loved one because, each time we do so, it feels like a step toward changing the relationship from one between equals to one of unbalanced power. By complying, we may be signaling our future willingness to subordinate ourselves to the other person’s will. «Yes, my dear, you are much smarter and more knowledgeable than I, so I’ll always do as you say.» Every act of compliance seems to tighten an imagined noose that the other has around our neck. The conflict between complying (to show our love) and not complying (to assert our freedom) creates frustration, and frustration leads to anger. And so, we feel more anger when a loved one tells us how to improve our driving — or our health, or whatever — than we do when a perfect stranger gives us such advice.
to empathize with = to understand another person’s feelings and experiences
unsolicited (advice) = not asked for and sometimes not wanted
innocuous = not intended or likely to offend or upset anyone
curt (manner) = appearing rude because very few words are used, or because something is done in a very quick way
to speak volumes = to make a situation clear without using words
to micromanage = to manage or control with excessive attention to minor details
to omit (the advice part) = to not include something/somebody, either deliberately or because you have forgotten it/them
(not in any way) coerced = to force somebody to do something by using threats
one-upmanship = he skill of getting an advantage over other people
assertion (of dominance) = the act of stating, using or claiming something strongly
underlying (answer) = important in a situation but not always easily noticed or stated clearly
implicitly (fear) = in a way that is suggested without being directly expressed
to retain (our autonomy) = to keep something; to continue to have something
to comply = to obey a rule, an order, etc
a noose = a circle that is tied in one end of a rope with a knot that allows the circle to get smaller as the other end of the rope is pulled