Why Unsolicited Advice Doesn't Bother Me

I think all of us have at some point received unsolicited advice.  It kind of goes along with being a person.

Most people love to give their advice on anything and everything, sometimes whether it is asked for or not.  This is true for all life stages, I think, but it reaches a whole other level when you become a mom.  Suddenly you are a target for people to shoot their advice at and everyone wants to take a shot, from the lady in the grocery store, to the brand-new father who is catering your family reunion, to the single girl who isn't anywhere near being a mother (not that I speak from personal experience or anything).



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(37/52 - Pumpkins)

I've heard from a lot of people who hate getting advice from others when they weren't asking for it - and truth be told, I've had my moments where I have hated it too.  But over the years I've learned a few things, and the unsolicited advice doesn't bother me as much anymore.   Here are the reasons why.


1. I realize people care about me and are just trying to help.

Sometimes I decide to talk about a problem or a struggle with someone just because I want to talk about it.  And when they start to try to "fix" my problem by giving me advice, there can be that temptation to feel annoyed.  But most of the time they are doing this because they hate to see me struggling, and they want to help my sorrows disappear.  So they give advice.  When you realize they aren't trying to boss you around, they are just trying to help you, it becomes easier to take the advice for the good intent behind it, even if it's not what you were looking for.

2. I realize people are trying to connect with me.

Sometimes people will offer advice because they have been through something similar, and they feel a connection to me.  They want to talk about our shared problems or experiences, and sometimes the easiest opening to make that connection or let me know they know what I am going through is to offer a snippet of advice!  When this happens, take the bait.  Carry through with the conversation and make the connection.

3. I realize people are trying to impress me.

Sometimes people give advice because they are trying to show off their vast knowledge on the subject.  This usually happens with acquaintances or new friends and is one of the most annoying kinds of advice to deal with.  However, I try to look at it from the other angle - they wouldn't feel the need to "show off" if they didn't think I was someone worth impressing.  That's kind of flattering!  The best way to deal with this motivation for advice is to say something along the lines of "Wow, that's a really good point, is that what you do/did?" or "Interesting, tell me more", and try to take the conversation more in the direction of personal stories.  Then you can share experiences and advice back and forth without feeling like you are being lectured.

4.  I realize people aren't necessarily trying to be a know-it-all.

At the same time, I don't assume every time someone tries to give me advice they are trying to show off.  That can lead to unnecessary annoyance.  The motives behind the advice are more likely one of the first two.  I always assume it's one of the first two motives listed here until it becomes obvious that it's motive #3.

5. I realize that any random advice given by strangers who tell me that some insignificant thing that I am doing is wrong is immediately up for dismissal, unless there is imminent danger or something.

Strange people you see in the mall really shouldn't be telling you what to do, unless it's along the lines of "You are blessed, enjoy your life!" (which is probably the most common stranger advice, especially when they see your cute babies).  When Wyatt was a month or two old some lady at Joann's told me I was holding him wrong.  But actually Wyatt was just trying to look at the lights (he's always loved lights).  Annoying?  Yes, this is probably the type of advice that is truly annoying with no real redeeming factors.  But it's not something to dwell on.  Your blood pressure will thank you if you just learn to dismiss it.

6.  I realize I don't have to take all the advice given to me.

People can give me all the advice they want, but in the end I pray about it, and I decide what's going to work best for me or my family.  I'm not obligated to take any specific advice, especially the advice given by random people at the store.  And those who love me are going to support me whatever I decide.  That knowledge is freeing and makes the advice less frustrating.  I've learned to listen to the advice, to consider it because a multitude of counselors is a good thing, and to have confidence in the final decisions I make.



(Free printable - click on photo to enlarge, then save to your computer.)


7.  I realize sometimes that "annoying advice" is just what I need.

This goes back to the week we got back from our honeymoon.  Someone who is close to me noticed that I kept correcting parts of the story when Derek was telling about the different things we saw on our trip, and they advised me not to do that and just let Derek tell the story his way.  It annoyed me at the time, but two years later I read something that reminded me of that conversation, and I realized that person was right.  It was silly of me to keep correcting Derek on things that didn't matter - it was disrespectful and sent the message that Derek was getting everything wrong.  I vowed right then to listen to the advice that was given me in the future and try not to be immediately annoyed, because even if I disagreed at the moment the wisdom could become more apparent to me later.

8.  I realize that sometimes people are trying to be controlling or manipulative, and in those instances it's okay to respectfully disagree or disregard their "advice".

Some people are controlling.  Some people are trying to push their agendas.  Some people are insulting you personally and hide their insults behind "advice".  I try to give people the benefit of a doubt, but I think if you suspect that this may be the reason behind someone's "advice", you should run their comments by someone you trust.  If you feel like someone is being controlling or manipulative, it's okay to respectfully stand your ground and refuse to accept the hurtful words.


How did I come to realize all this?  Because I've come face-to-face with the fact that sometimes I am an unsolicited-advice giver!  I think everyone is at times without really realizing it.   And I know the reasons behind my motivations when I give advice.   This has helped me to search out and appreciate more the heart of those who are trying to give me advice - because I think most people are giving advice for pure reasons.  

And you know what?  I love that.  I love that they are interested enough in me and care enough about me as a person to want to help me.  I love that they want to connect with me and impress me.  I love that I have people in my life who are willing to say the hard stuff because they want me to be "the best me I can be".  I've learned when advice is just a different way of looking at things, when someone's advice is something serious that I should prayerfully consider, and when it serves no other purpose but to control or hurt.  When I can distinguish that I can react in the appropriate way.

What are some ways you deal with unsolicited advice?  Are there any things that have helped you have a more God-honoring perspective when it comes to all the advice-giving?
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Caitlynne and Jared said...

I love this Callie! There is a girl that I had been friends with for several years that had kids a few months before me. Then when I had Paxton, every time we talked she would give me advice. Instead of giving her the benefit of the doubt and realizing she might just be a #3, I stopped spending time with her. I am so impressed with how you've put a positive spin on each of these and I think it says so much about you that you can see the good in people even in such an uncomfortable situation. Thanks for inspiring me to go out and see the good intentions people have instead of my own annoyance.

Emily Powell said...

You're so positive and upbeat Callie! Most people are not poor meaning...although I have met my fair share. I feel like blogging opens you up to even more advice and critisism too.

Melanie said...

GREAT post Callie! New moms do seem to be the ones who get the most unsolicitated advice for sure..I like how you looked at the up-side of each type of advice given..that helps me alot!

eliz said...

I sooo agree that people sometimes just want to connect with you. I work with mostly women and since I was pregnant it seemed that most of the moms finally started talking to me. Now I am friendlier and have had conversations with people from work who would ignore me before..all because they love sharing their advice with me...and well I love listening! :-)

Devon P said...

Good for you for not letting it bother you! It bothers me immensely but then I often catch myself on the giving end! Yikes!

Jenna said...

I tend to be an unsolicited advice giver too! A lot :-/ Especially about mommy stuff. I've just done so much reading and research about all things pregnancy/labor/delivery/mommy related, because I love learning about those things... but it ends up spilling over to people, and I'm sure I come off as giving unsolicited advice far too often. Eek! I really honestly just love connecting with people and love being able to share my knowledge. Even though I'm sure I sound like a know it all sometimes, without even meaning to!

Cassidy Robinson said...

Just catching up on your blog and I just love this post! I have to admit that it does bother me sometimes (mostly from Facebook friends/acquaintances who I haven't spoken to in a really long time!) because I'm not sure if they are really trying to help or just make themselves look/feel good. But from friends and people I respect and trust, I welcome it! Thank you for offering up this unique perspective! :)

Courtney B said...

Hello.... this post is totally what I needed! I need to be more open minded and really take a step back when someone offers their opinion/advice when I think I don't need to hear it. LOVE THIS!!

Hannah said...

I love everything about this! You have so thoughtfully written out what I feel like I know deep down in my heart and mind. You just said it so well. Thank you so much for sharing this, it is perfect.

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