They probably mean well, but...
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 we aren't 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.
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 communicating our feelings 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're 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 yo're concerned about me in this situation, but I don't 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."
In addition to these statements, here are some other guidelines you should follow:
1. Acknowledge the other person's feelings.
By acknowledging the other person's point of view, it helps to "cushion" things a bit so they're more willing and open to hearing 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.
2. State your feelings.
Make sure you state your feelings rather than thoughts. If we say things like, "I don't like your advice," then that's a thought we have. If we shift it around and say, "I feel that I don't need advice right now," it becomes much less of an attack. 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, so I wouldn't encourage you to jump into that right away. However, it's something worth striving for in relationships, especially the ones that are more intimate by nature, like with a partner or family member.
3. Say what you want instead.
If a person is giving you advice, it's obviously because on some level they really care and want you to be OK 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 also helps because it encourages you to stand in your own personal empowerment. Doing so encourages you to fully take charge by knowing and saying exactly what you want.
4. 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. 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 isn't 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's 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.
5. Set boundaries.
Overall, when it comes to figuring out how to set a boundary and make your feelings known , ask yourself, "How would I feel if someone said this to me?" This method isn't bullet proof because we're 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're 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.
This article was originally published at Jennifer Twardowski. Reprinted with permission from the author.