Learning to take criticism and advice from others is part of life. But, the feeling of being given unprompted advice when it was not invited can be extremely frustrating, and these kind of unsolicited opinions may make you feel upset, angry or worse.
So, how do you let others know that they should keep their opinions to themselves? Here’s how to handle unsolicited advice from friends and family.
What’s wrong with giving unsolicited advice?
If someone asks a friend to provide advice, it may be helpful. But unrequested advice may not always be useful, and when it’s not invited, it can come across as condescending, patronizing and in some cases, just outright rude. Unsolicited advice can give an aura of superiority, especially when the advice isn’t useful.
Unsolicited advice can cause relationships to be strained, especially when you’re dealing with family members that probably should know better. It seems like common sense to keep your views to yourself when they aren’t needed, but not everyone gets the message. This is why you may need to start setting boundaries with other people in your life.
Fortunately, whether it’s a family member or friend trying to give you unwanted advice, there are some things that you can do to let them know that it isn’t wanted – without upsetting them.
10 Ways To Handle Unsolicited Advice
Take a deep breath and count to ten before responding
It’s sometimes hard for people’s views or advice to be heard, but in most cases, they aren’t intentionally trying to upset you.
Sometimes we have to vent, but if you can, take a little time beforehand to gather your thoughts and make sure your response to them is polite. If anyone gives you unsolicited suggestions, take a breath, count to 10, and then respond.
This will give you some time to look at things from the perspective of the advice giver. Most unsolicited advice from anyone, whether an older friend or a co worker, is intended to be helpful. So, take a moment before responding to ensure you don’t snap back.
Change the subject of the conversation by asking questions about them
If someone tries to give unsolicited advice, you can try directing the conversation in another direction. When you do this, most people with emotional intelligence will get the message that you’re not open to talking about this specific topic.
When you redirect the emphasis from your particular situation to another, you simply refocus onto something else – this could be their own problems, their relationships or something else. Ask about what they’re doing to handle a specific situation, or move onto how their career has developed in recent years. Humans love talking about themselves, so try turning the tables and offer them advice on their situation instead.
If your conversation is tense and you want it to stop suddenly, it’s can be a good idea to simply stop talking and move onto something else. This obviously isn’t great for face-to-face conversations, but if you’re messaging other people via text or WhatsApp, you can simply stop talking.
If you receive a resentful message that makes you feel frustrated, you can just end the conversation right there. Generally, offering unsolicited advice is more difficult to deal with when it’s in person – but when you’re using your phone, simply stop talking – and hopefully, the other person will get the message.
Smile and thank them for their concern
Take a breath and assess why you are receiving unsolicited guidance. Maybe it is useful, maybe it’s not. However, one of the best things you can do is smile when you receive unsolicited advice, and thank them for offering their opinion.
This works in two ways – if they’re offering advice genuinely, it’ll let them know that you appreciate them. And if they’re offering advice as a stranger to try and prove a point, smiling let’s them know you acknowledge their opinion – even if secretly, you don’t. In any case, be nice to the person who’s offering advice to you by smiling back at them.
Let them know that you’ve taken care of things in the way that’s best for you
Quite often individuals give unsolicited suggestions because they believe their solution is better than your current one, instead of considering what happened and how they can support you.
This demonstrates that the person in question may have poor judgement, as in most scenarios, it’s better to lend a listening ear than it is to lecture someone with unsolicited advice.
In such situations, you can tell them very clearly you have done everything that you needed to already, or that you plan to in the near future. Again though, it’s important to do this in a polite manner if you want to ensure there’s no hard feelings.
Try to understand where they are coming from – often times people give unsolicited advice because they want the best for you
Most people give advice with a genuine desire to help. Try to remember this when friends offer you unsolicited advice – determine whether there’s an element of love and compassion that the other person is trying to show you, which is likely.
If it’s a friend or relationship you’ve had for a long time, it’s easy to work out if they have an ulterior motive. But when it’s a stranger, it’s more difficult to know whether they want the best for you – or whether they’re just trying to prove a point.
Tell them that, although you appreciate their help, you want to sort this out yourself
This is particularly useful when parents or older grandparents want help in their own way, as it let’s them know you’re capable of handling the situation yourself.
They can sometimes be anxious to see the way things work out, and wish to speed things up for you by giving you advice. Family always want the best for their children, and sometimes, that can lead to them giving advice where it’s not wanted. So, you can set boundaries and tell them that you’ve got things under control.
Ask them why they feel the need to offer advice
Many older people give advice not only where it’s not needed, but where they’re in no position to do so. In our hypocritical world, people will often give advice based on what they’ve read, not what they’ve experienced themselves.
To combat this, you can ask them why they’re giving you advice in the first place. This doesn’t need to be an argument, but it just questions why they’re interested in your situation. This can help you to know whether they really want the best for you, or whether they’re just trying to make themselves feel better.
Explain why their idea won’t work in your situation
When we talk about our problems, we often tell other people shortened stories of the issues that we’re facing, thereby saving some basic details. So, the other person likely doesn’t see the full picture – unless you give it to them, that is.
There’s nothing wrong with letting them know more details about why their suggestions may not apply to your scenario. You can give them an example of why their advice may not be relevant, or show them why the circumstances are actually a little different than they’d assumed. As long as you’re polite to the person giving advice, there’s nothing wrong with doing this.
Be honest about why you don’t want to hear it
The truth is that some opinions may be negative or unjustified. In some circumstances, this is a sign they want to highlight your failure – though in the vast majority of cases, the other person doesn’t mean any harm by giving advice to you.
If you’re wondering how to respond to unsolicited advice that’s given with the best intentions, in some cases it’s best to just be brutally honest with them. Using the steps above, you can say why you don’t need that advice right now – whether you’ve already dealt with it, it’s irrelevant or it makes false assumptions, honesty is often the best policy.