Monday, January 6, 2014

Unsolicited Opinions and Advice


Every one of us has been the recipient of unsolicited advice. Our reactions may vary from gratitude to annoyance, to downright indignation.

Every one of us at one time or another has dished out unsolicited advice, and we should bear that in mind when receiving it. Remember, it is usually given with the best intentions.

I've noticed the easiest place to give unsolicited advice is on Facebook. I recently posted a very specific question on Facebook, asking for different Jello recipes, and while most of the comments were helpful, and I got a lot of great recipe suggestions, there were some who felt it necessary to question my desire for the recipe in the first place. The suggestions ranged from "Just make Jello," and "Why complicate your life?" to "Don't make Jello, make something else--there are much yummier desserts!"

One of my friends asked how I ended up getting forty comments on my Jello thread. Apparently, people are very passionate about their Jello.

And if people are that passionate about Jello, imagine how much more passionate they are about raising children, student loans, vacation destinations, and what not to wear!


We've all been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice. My favorites from my own life include when I was pregnant and my neighbor saw me walking inside with a bag of potato chips and told me that I couldn't eat those because I had already gained too much weight. Or the time a stranger in Ikea wrote down the name of a special shampoo that stimulated hair growth for my bald newborn. Thanks lady... Not to mention the countless "when are you going to have a baby?" and more recently "when are you going to have another baby?" I think these people are part of a secret ninja squad dedicated to enforcing procreation. And of course, heaps and heaps and heaps of parenting advice, including "don't let your baby play with push pins." Does anyone really need to be told that? Ever?

But sometimes I feel like we approach unsolicited advice from the wrong direction, looking at only those who give it and trying to make them change. I read so many posts about how you're not supposed to say x, y, and z and have been on the receiving end of an e-mail from someone who outlined specifically what people were allowed and not allowed to say to her. Don't get me wrong, it is wonderful to be sensitive and cautious with your words, but we all have that elderly Eastern European neighbor who tells it like it is and I don't think she reads blogs so I'm pretty sure unsolicited advice is here to stay. Why not focus instead on the one thing we can control- our reaction to advice from others.

The bottom line is, no matter how offensive the comment, we're the ones who choose whether or not it is going to upset us. We can accomplish this in a variety of ways but the most important thing to realize is that we are in control of ourselves, we dictate our own actions, we decide how we let those words affect us. My mother taught me from an early age just to laugh about it. We were hiking a small part of a big mountain trail.  We were only going to hike for an hour and then turn around but as we were starting out on the trail it would appear to passersby that we were about to embark on a grueling eight hour hike with one bottle of water each. One lady, bedecked in head to toe spandex and laden with professional mountain climbing equipment laid eyes on us and immediately offered some snappy, judgemental advice, "you're never going to make it up that mountain with that little water." My mom smiled and responded, "don't worry, I drink my own urine."


So how do we deal with unsolicited advice while remaining lovely? I have some unsolicited advice for you:

Be upfront: Whether you are venting, or seeking specific answers, let people know. Perhaps start the conversation with a disclaimer: "I am not looking for advice, I just want to vent." One of my Facebook friends was looking for a credit card which would help her earn sky miles and she said "Please no comments on the dangers of credit cards, I simply want to find one that works for me."

Ask yourself where their advice is coming from: Is the person trying to be helpful? Or is their advice more about their needs. Here is a guide to help you discern if the advice is helpful or unhelpful. 

Politely redirect: Sometimes just a simple, "Thank you for your advice, but I've made a different choice in regards to how I will handle this situation," can stop the unwanted advice.

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