Unsolicited advice: We've all received it at some point in our lives and we've all given it as well. In some cases, if we didn't know enough about the circumstance to ask for advice then we were appreciative if someone told us — but those moments are few and far between. The majority of the time, we feel that the other person is trying to take our own power away. We feel as if they believe that we are not capable of taking care of ourselves and knowing what we need. The advice gives us a feel that we have some of our own freedom and autonomy taken away. As a result, we get angry, we get frustrated, we think thoughts like "What gives this person the right to tell me what to do? They don't even know what's really going on!"
Though these thoughts and emotions are very much real and should be acknowledged, it's not like we want to explode with all of those raw feelings onto the other person. The trick is in making our feelings known through a boundary, while also doing it in a respectful manner so the other person doesn't immediately feel attacked.
The way we respond can vary greatly depending on the context: who the person is, what they are giving advice on, the nature of your relationship with them and so on. However, there are some statements that can work pretty universally. Here are some examples.
- "I appreciate your concern, but I don't need your advice."
- "Sorry, but I don't need advice with this right now."
- "I know that you care, but all I need right now is a listening ear — not advice."
- "I know you are concerned about me in this situation, but I do not feel that your advice is helpful right now. I'd really appreciate it if you would just listen."
- "I know you're trying to help, but I don't feel that I need advice right now. I'd appreciate it if you'd just accept it and let me learn on my own. I will ask you for advice when and if I feel that I need it."
Though you can use these exact statements, you can also create your own based on the guidelines of the statements I've listed above. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Acknowledge The Other Person's Feelings: By acknowledging the other person's point of view, it helps to "cushion" things a bit so that they are more willing and open to hear what you have to say. If we don't do this, the other person is much more likely to get defensive and not hear you.
- State Your Feelings: Please make a special note with this that I said your feelings rather than thoughts. I feel that this is key. If we say things like "I don't like your advice," then that's a thought that we have. If we shift it around and say, "I feel that I don't need advice right now," it becomes much less attacking. In some rare cases of more intimate relationships, we may be able to go so far as to say something like "Your advice makes me feel like I'm not competent enough to take care of myself." This is much more vulnerable (both for you and the relationship in general), so I wouldn't encourage you to jump into that right away. However, I do feel that it is something worth striving for relationships — especially the ones that are more intimate by nature, like with a partner or family member.
- Say What You Want Instead: This can be optional, but in doing so it helps to lighten the load quite a bit. If a person is giving you advice, then obviously it's because on some level they really care and want you to be okay and do well. If you tell them what you would like for them to do instead, it gives them the opportunity to still be helpful. It also helps to clear out any confusion that they might have. Stating what you want instead also helps you because it encourages you to stand in your own personal empowerment. Doing so encourages you to really fully take charge by knowing and saying exactly what you want.
- Pick Your Battles: If you feel that some unsolicited advice has really aggravated you, then say something, especially if the relationship is very important to you. The reason I say this is because if we don't say it, it becomes repressed and those angry feelings may come out in some other way in the relationship down the road. By sharing what you genuinely feel and want, it helps to "clear the slate." If the relationship is not necessarily a close one, then really check in on how you feel. It may actually be easier or a good way to "practice" if it is someone you don't know very well. Yet, if you know the person may have some toxic behavior patterns and doing so may cause you too much stress, then you may want to hold off. Ultimately, it's up to you and how you feel. Just remember to be mindful.
- Set Boundaries: Overall, when it comes to figuring out how to set a boundary and make you feelings known with someone who has given you unsolicited advice, ask yourself, "How would I feel if someone said this to me?" This method isn't bullet proof because we are all very different in our preferences. We can also be skewed in our honest opinion of how we would react if someone told that to us because we are more focus on our own aggravated feelings right now. Yet, sometimes doing the whole "put yourself in someone else's shoes" thing can help us figure out the best way to word things because it encourages us to step out of ourselves and look at it from an outside perspective. Set your boundaries today!
Think of a time when someone has given you unsolicited advice. Imagine the situation replaying in your head. Fully imagine it — make it as real as possible. Now imagine what you could have done differently that would've worked. What could you have said or how could you have responded to make this person understand how you feel and what you'd like from this person instead without hurting them. It may take a few tries to fully get an idea.
What did you come up with? What could you have said differently? Share below!
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